Slnko v sieti (1962)

14 12 2008

It’s rather difficult for me to assess this because I just seem to have a particular bias towards early 1960s Antonioni rip-offs. Calling this a rip-off is a little harsh, but it definitely can be categorized with a group of films that clearly came from a post-L’Avventura filmmaking world. Many Eastern European directors seem to have been extremely impressed with Antonioni because it seems like a good amount of the cinematic catalog from that part of the world falls into this category. This relatively unknown (and unloved) gem came a year before the first “real” film from the much more well-known auteur, Miklós Jancsó. His film is wonderful, but I have to say that this one is probably even better.

The story revolves around the break in the relationship between two alienated youths, Fajolo and Bella. The emotional climax of their relationship comes when a solar eclipse, the first in a hundred and twenty years, occurs. This is a particularly traumatic time as Bella’s mother is blind. There is some implication that the eclipse will have a big impact on everyone, and it does, well sort of, but it is quickly tossed aside. Fajolo goes to the country to make a living and in the process, falls for Jane. Bella, meanwhile, tries to cheer herself up with a much more confident and outspoken individual by the name of Pete.

The already mentioned motif involving a solar eclipse seems like a potential for laughable symbolism, but thankfully, it becomes burried beneath everything else. On the other hand, the whole “eclipse” section of the film is one of the most visually impressive stretches I’ve seen in any one film. It probably even tops its reference point (Antonioni, if you lost track) in terms of pure visual beauty. Stefan Uher seems more keen on montage than Antonioni, let alone Jancsó but he still succeeds in creating the same sort of tone. On the other hand, he isn’t quite as great as Bertolucci is in Before the Revolution when it comes to rapid-fire editing. I’d say that Uher formally exists somewhere between early Bertolucci and Antonioni, which needless to say, is definitely a very good thing.

If there’s worth complaining about here, it is that the characters, while all reliatable and (at the very least) somewhat likable, are a little bit underdevloped. Inevitable, I suppose, in a film with only a running time of ninety minutes. If you’re going to follow in Antonioni’s formal footsteps than you’re probably going to have to pace the film to the point that it is at least a little bit longer. I guess this would collide with Uher’s more montage-y technical style, but there is no doubt that this could have been a tad bit longer. Again, though, this is very minor compliant, and the quick pace doesn’t really the weigh the film down at all. For the most part, it is amazing.

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