1950s - Glorious Years of Croatian Film

The 1950s were simply such a demanding time that an ambitious filmmaker of that era had to know how to direct…

The 1950s are a period that we should remember with a nostalgic respect, for it was then that, for the first time in the history of former Yugoslavia, Croatian cinema was superior to everything else made in the Slovenian, Serbian, and Montenegrin film workshops. Take, for example, Tanhofer’s movie H-8! For socialist cinema, it was a little unusual to populate a film with so-called ordinary people - drivers, journalists, students, soldiers, retirees - without ever confronting them with the realities of the society in which they live, apart from the worst of them- the mercilessness of the fate. This predecessor of today’s documentary dramas, the story about an unfortunate crash between a truck and a bus, became dramatic through the screenwriter’s idea not to reveal the victims of the accident until the very end of the film. The director ingeniously used the song “Sretan put”, and successfully depicted death as a something sublime, and showed that this privilege does not have to be earned only by a heroic deed (as in partisan films).
In the film Only People socialist rhetoric is more evident: the protagonist has lost her eyesight at the same time her love interest lost his leg due to the war. The motif of a hydro plant was used in all those film stories in which protagonists suppress the private in order to live and die for the collective. Nevertheless, in this film these motifs are the backdrop against which the main characters live out personal dramas. Will the young blind woman resent the man that she loves because he did not reveal that he is an invalid? Will the middle-aged lady of the house ever accept the fact that none of her guests respond to her sympathies? All the nuances of their relationships are revealed through such an impressive directing style that it comes as no surprise that this was the first Croatian film to be included in the official program of the Venice Film Festival.
Finally, Train Without a Timetable! This film was always, until the end of the 1960s, at the top of all lists of the best Yugoslav films of all times. Today we see this debut by Bulajić (shown at the Cannes Film Festival) from a different perspective. Partly because it was not always clear that poor peasants from Lika moved to the plains of Vojvodina because ethnic Germans were banished from those areas. Also interesting is the fact that in the second part of this film, Obećana zemlja, from 1986, Bulajić showed much less concern for the mise-en-scene than in Train Without a Timetable. The 1950s were a very demanding time! An ambitious filmmaker had to know how to direct, and Train Without a Timetable sparkles with movement in the background, impressing us with visually beautiful locations and great performances. Imagine if this story had been made two and a half decades later; the slowness of its exposition it would make it difficult to watch!

(Nenad Polimac)