Future Frames Review: Marica
by Laurence Boyce
- Judita Gamulin’s fragile short film about womanhood and rebellion is premiering internationally as part of European Film Promotion’s Future Frames at the 2018 edition of Karlovy Vary
A small and intimate film, Judita Gamulin’s Marica shares similar themes with Álvaro Gago’s Sundance-winning short film Matria. Both films follow the everyday life of an ordinary, middle-aged woman, revealing a difficult and stressful existence, an existence that society often chooses to ignore, given the fact that they are ‘just’ housewives. Gamulin’s film goes one step further than Matria, allowing its protagonist a moment of rebellion. Much of the film explores whether or not said rebellion will be long-lasting.
While cleaning the home of an affluent couple, Marica (Mirela Brekalo-Popović) receives – what seems like – a typical phone call from her husband, requiring her to deal with problems and the mess left behind by other people. But when her clients arrive home in the midst of an argument, and one defiantly leaves, a fire is lit within Marica. After reaching her front door, she walks away. Upon arriving at the hotel where a friend works, Marica ponders whether or not to head back to her old life.
For much of Marica, the titular protagonist is framed low down in the shot, dwarfed by everything else. In some ways, this emphasises Marica’s ‘Atlas’ like existence – the weight of the world is on her shoulders, as she has to deal with everyone else’s problems and fulfil their demands. But it also reveals how little importance the world affords her – she’s part of the background. Even if she is a focal point of the lives of those around her, they – and the universe – won’t acknowledge it. During the moments in which she decides to make a stand and put herself first, she moves towards the centre of the frame. These brief moments feel quietly triumphalist, a stand not only for individual freedom, but also for a portion of society that is happily dismissed and ignored.
Aside from the delicate cinematography by Tomislav Sutlar, much of the film’s success is due to Brekalo-Popović’s performance. She says little but her pained yet defiant expressions speak much of the conflict at the heart of her character – in full knowledge that a better world is possible, but also fiercely aware of her loyalty to her family and the role that society expects her to play. As she sits in an empty hotel room, there’s an almost tangible sense of the battle that rages within her. These moments also have a hint of the surreal to them as Marica deals with a situation that is foreign and strange to her.
The film ends on a bittersweet note, with graffiti scrawled across the door of her home, almost as if it were directly taunting her. But there’s also a sense that, even if her rebellion ultimately proves to be brief, the fact that it happened at all gives hope for some sort future control.
Screened in international premiere at Karlovy Vary as part of European Film Promotion’s Future Frames, Marica – which comes from Zagreb Academy of Dramatic Art – should find itself with a very good chance of becoming a fixture on the festival circuit over the coming months thanks to its blend of a powerful character study and pointed social commentary.
Find out more about the short film here.
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