Dark Continents of Womanhood

Retrospective Woman in the city, city on film 1 has been prepared to present some well known films from a different angle. This enables us to analyze the ways we observe them in a new way and also to note how our habit of observing determines certain social positions, especially positions of women in Western European countries

The retrospective is in its way historical and divided into two parts. The first part includes several outstanding films made in socialist Yugoslavia during the late sixties and early seventies of the 20th century – Accidental Life, the only film and a master piece by the first Croatian film scholar Ante Peterlić; Living Truth by Tomislav Radić, our most famous film of the cinema verité genre; and Sunday, Lordan Zafranović’s early work, but for some the best. The films were made in a time when socialist Yugoslavia was already in its second phase of existence, particularly characterized by the economic reform in 1965. In a certain way these films are a real reflection of the time and place they were made in – overall irony in relation to dominant ideologies of that time and the pathology they create, the emergence of new art experiments such as happenings and nonlinear film narration, new typology of film collectives such as FAS (Film Author Studio), which produced all three films. All these are important common features of the mentioned films.

The second part of the retrospective includes a selection from the international production: Hiroshima, My Love by Alain Resnais, Metropolis by Fritz Lang, and Alice in the Cities by Wim Wenders.

The retrospective ends with a short film by Krešo Golik From 3 to 22, which is also the introduction to the round table on the subject of the retrospective: Woman in the city, city on film.

As it is clearly stated in the title of the retrospective what we are particularly interested in, in this retrospective, is the status of female characters in these films. In the first part of the retrospective the attention is to be directed to the specific and very different models of tactics women use to escape the ideologies of the authorities who have social (i.e. political) power in the area. Their tactics are often unsuccessful and pathetic: like the failed job interview of Božidarka Frajt, who is refused by Vjeran Zuppa in one of the numerous social rituals of Zagreb society depicted in Radić's film Living Truth. Completely opposite are the survival tactics of the textile worker in a Zagreb factory. In the contracted 14 minutes of Golik's film From 3 to 22 we learn about the superhuman physical endurance that merges with the mechanical working on the weaving loom during a19-hour work day. At other times, they are the tactics of a busy young woman whose private love life is maybe a chance to climb the social ladder and take a better position within the firmly determined structure of the social work organization of some other Yugoslavia that is revealed in Peterlić's exceptionally powerful film study Accidental Life. And sometimes those are the tactics of fading into an almost unearthly ethereal nymph, a character that emphesizes even more the lie of carefree Sundays of other two female characters in the film, who are so real and fleshy in their existence as a wife and a mistress in Zafranović's film Sunday.

The second part of the retrospective directs our viewpoint to some other, less known, areas: we are shown the absolute instability and fragility of relationships in a city which is living the reality of a post-nuclear disaster in Resnais's master piece Hiroshima, My Love; the anticipation of the breakdown of Metropolis which owes its monumentality to institutionalized slavery; the trans-Atlantic odyssey of a girl, or a woman-to-be in Wenders's road movie Alice in the Cities.

Women, shown in the urban areas of film stories, are often destined to be shown as crying housewives or fatal mistresses, within the woman-child or woman-demon stereotype, or, very frequently, as ethereal victims of reality who don’t seem to have a real life. Also, their roles are too often tailored to fit the main male character, making his life problems, choices and attitudes more plastic and susceptible.

etrospective encourages the audience to look in a different direction and it makes them think about the possibilities for a different perspective in films. The range of selected films indicates a need for a discussion about the potential and the possibilities of changing the usual ways of reproduction of the everyday life. (Sonja Leboš)