by Vladan Petkovic
- BERLIN 2019: Miroslav Terzić's second feature is an accomplished psychological drama with strong thriller elements that should play equally well to regular audiences and discerning cinephiles
Stitches [+see also:
interview: Miroslav Terzić
film profile], the second feature by Miroslav Terzić (Redemption Street [+see also:
interview: Miroslav Terzić
film profile]), is probably the most accomplished narrative film to come out of Serbia since Srdan Golubović's Circles [+see also:
interview: Nikola Rakocevic
interview: Srdan Golubovic
film profile] (2013). Inspired by true events, and written by Elma Tataragić (who is also taking part in the Berlinale competition this year as the co-writer of God Exists, Her Name Is Petrunuija [+see also:
interview: Labina Mitevska
interview: Teona Strugar Mitevska
film profile]), Stitches is a psychological drama de luxe, with a Polanski-like thriller undercurrent.
Ana (Snežana Bogdanović) is a seamstress who lost her son 18 years ago, when he was allegedly stillborn. She lives in a modest New Belgrade apartment with her husband, night guard Jovan (Marko Baćović, quietly convincing), and teenage daughter Ivana (Jovana Stojiljković, inspired and precise). As Ana has never seen the body of her son, nor been informed of where he was buried, she is still unable to let go of the notion that Stefan, as he was named for the purpose of the death certificate, might be alive, and perhaps even within her reach. Much to the frustration of her loving husband and her daughter – who is probably suffering the most in the relationship with her mother, as she cannot compete with a sibling who never came to be – Ana keeps trying to find out the truth.
When a lady from an association dealing with such cases (there are some 500 unsolved cases revolving around newborns being mysteriously lost in the early 1990s, when Yugoslavia was falling apart) comes to her shop and tells her that they have a new contact in the local administrative authorities, Ana's hopes skyrocket. After visiting the secretive clerk (Jelena Stupljanin), she finds out that the records from the maternity ward are not only in disarray, but are also contradictory, indicating an ambiguous denouement.
This is where the primary strength of Terzić's approach lies: in the tradition of Roman Polanski at his best, he creates a world focused on Ana's unreliable inner state, and her relationships with her husband and daughter, as well as her loving, but weary, sister (Vesna Trivalić in a heartbreaking turn). DoP Damjan Radovanović's widescreen cinematography is almost always focused on the troubled, often confused, but undoubtedly intelligent heroine as she, quite indiscreetly, watches teenage boys while commuting on the tram, walks through the urban New Belgrade environment deep in thought, or simply stands on her balcony at night, waiting for something… Maybe her son to magically appear in front of the building.
Alternating between the trivial day-to-day that the heroine exists in, like every other person, and frustrating suspense as she searches for a truth that might not even be real, Terzić relies on the movie’s well-defined visual style and Bogdanović's pitch-perfect performance. This primarily theatre actress, physically reminiscent of Charlotte Rampling, portrays the difficult character with restraint and dignity, never slipping into hysterics or any other extreme emotions. The most devastating moments in the film come from little details, such as when Jovan wants her to give up the search once and for all, and she starts fumbling with a pile of old documents before they go to the police to try and close the case.
Stitches is a multi-layered psychological drama with an intriguing premise and a clear execution, and it should play equally well to regular cinemagoers and discerning cinephiles. It was co-produced by Serbia's West End Productions, Slovenia's Nora Production Group, Croatia's Spiritus Movens, and Bosnia and Herzegovina's SCCA/Pro.ba. Dubai-based Cercamon has the international rights.
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