On the Other Side
Director Zrinko Ogresta
Though it’s been nearly two decades, the neighbor-upon-neighbor violence of the Balkan wars still haunt the region, as shown in this methodical and haunting psychological thrilled about a nurse and her family. When her war crime-committing husband gets in touch on the phone, old wounds are made fresh. (Interview translated by Sanja Lacan.) See cercamon.biz.
Were there any true stories of in the post-war era that inspired this tale?
The overall film has been inspired by everyday events, and certain elements of the tale were taken directly from real life. Such narratives pervade Croatian reality and need not be invented; indeed, far more harrowing tales can be found. To quote Georges Braque: “Truth exists; only lies are invented.”
Was it difficult to slowly tease out details of the family’s past?
Because the film unravels from the point of view of Vesna, the main protagonist, the viewer receives information at the same time as she does. I favor this approach to storytelling far more than that of an omniscient narrator/auteur, who controls all aspects of the narrative and dispenses them according to his pleasure. I think that a film gains the most authenticity when its narrative is told from the perspectives of its protagonists.
How open are the wounds from that war?
Numerous Croatian families continue to search for family members who died in the Croatian War of Independence fought from 1991 to 1995 between Croatian forces and the [then-Serb-controlled] Yugoslav National Army and Serbian paramilitary units. These families cannot find peace until their loved ones’ remains are found and identified. In practice, those individuals (whether Croats or Serbs) less affected by wartime past are better equipped for “normal life,” that is, for coexistence.
Do people there yearn for the past?
In our region, the past flows from generation to generation. Because certain historical truths remain in question, the everyday experience of today’s 30-year-olds is still marred by the reverberations of their grandparents’ generation, born before World War II. Yugoslavia’s 45-year experience with communism led to the suppression of painful historical events, and the propagation of a single-minded, ideologically motivated view of what constitutes the truth.
Is it still hard for people to find decent work because of their past?
Yes, there is no doubt that this happens. Although our country’s constitution and laws are firmly rooted in the contemporary socio-political context, everyday practices frequently flout the legal norms they set forward.
Tell me about the striking cinematography.
The film was primarily photographed using extended single takes; that is, each scene corresponds to a single continuous shot. This approach imparts veracity to the film, in contrast to classical editing techniques, which presuppose a manipulation of the filmed material. By placing obstructions such as curtains, windows, etc. in front of the camera, I tried to convey the hardships and uncertainties in Vesna’s life. This cinematic technique impresses upon the viewer Vesna’s painful life story, which she has kept secret for over twenty years.
The music is also haunting.
Mate Matišić, who co-wrote the screenplay with me, also composed the music for the film. In addition to being one of the leading Croatian playwrights, Mate is also a preeminent musician, guitarist, and composer. I would venture to say that it is precisely because of his intimate involvement with the film’s narrative that the music he composed matches the movie’s scenes organically and spontaneously.