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TORONTO 2014 Croatia / Slovenia

The Reaper: emotional anti-climax


- Zvonimir Jurić’s latest movie was screened in the Contemporary World Cinema section of Toronto 2014 as an international premiere

The Reaper: emotional anti-climax

Croatian director Zvonimir Jurić’s new film The Reaper [+see also:
interview: Zvonimir Jurić
film profile
had its international premiere in the Contemporary World Cinema section of TIFF 2014. The film previously won Golden Arena awards for Best Cinematography for Branko Linta, Best Actor in a Leading Role for Ivo Gregurević and Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Igor Kovač at Croatia’s national Pula Film Festival in July. Indeed, the awards reflect the film’s strongest points. 

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Best known as the co-director of The Blacks [+see also:
film review
interview: Zvonimir Juric, Goran De…
film profile
, Jurić again tackles the theme of war in Croatia, but this time around, he builds a plot out of its consequences for individuals and local communities, through three interconnected storylines.

At the centre of the story is Ivo (Gregurević), a man in his 60s, living and working at a farming complex in a small town. The film opens one night when a woman (Mirjana Karanović) runs out of petrol in the vicinity. Ivo is working there with his tractor and offers to take her to the nearest petrol station. There she learns from the attendant, Josip (Kovač), that 20 years ago, Ivo went to prison because of rape. Although shocked, she decides to trust the man.

Later, Josip heads over to the bar, where his brother is celebrating the fact that his girlfriend is six months pregnant. When a friend tries to hook Josip up with a girl from Zagreb, he reacts violently and causes a scene, clearly worried by what is happening with Ivo and the woman – and the fact he called the police when he saw them.

Krešo (Nikola Ristanovski) is one of the policemen who answered Josip’s call, and the third storyline is about his family situation. His wife is unemployed and spends most of her time taking care of their sick infant child. This part brings the film to its emotional anti-climax, and might leave viewers dissatisfied – but Jurić is clearly not going for an audience-pleasing effect.

The director is primarily interested in the consequences of the past, whether it’s Ivo’s stigma or the community forever marked by the horrors of war. As Gregurević plays him with his subtle intensity, Ivo could just as well be a decent person, but retains an air of danger for the viewer, just as he does for the film’s characters.

The troubled, almost eerie atmosphere owes a lot to the fact that the whole film takes place over one night, and these nocturnal images are exquisitely handled by Linta, who showed prowess for such ambiance in The Blacks. Particularly effective are the shots in which Ivo's four tractor headlights beam intensely through the dark towards the camera, harking back to horror-film tropes, and the interiors of his meagre quarters, as well as Krešo's house with its run-down furniture and carpets sporting decades-old stains.

The Reaper was co-produced by Croatia’s Kinorama and Slovenia’s Forum Ljubljana

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