Review: How Much Do You Love Yourself?
by Marko Stojiljković
- The self-assured feature-length debut by Nina Blažin offers a personal, heartfelt and genuine perspective on homelessness
How Much Do You Love Yourself? is the feature-length documentary debut by young Slovenian filmmaker Nina Blažin, which tackles the topic of homelessness in an unusual, personal way. After its world premiere, which took place at last year's edition of the Slovenian Film Festival (FSF) in Portorož, where it bagged two Vesna Awards (for Best Documentary and Best Editing), it recently premiered internationally at ZagrebDox.
We meet our heroes during what is presumably one of the best moments of their lives: living in a squat, but feeling happy, Damjan, whom we see on screen, proposes to Viktorija, who is filming the whole thing with a cell phone and whose ecstatic voice we only hear off screen before she finds a more appropriate angle from which to film their kiss. After the largely vertical, obviously amateur opening shot, the next one is clearly professionally done, in ultra-widescreen ratio. Viktorija, equipped with various tools, breaks into an abandoned building, simultaneously explaining the life philosophy of so-called “urban explorers”.
She can call it anything she wants, but the fact is that she is more or less a homeless person, spending much of her time on the streets and trying out various schemes to get some much-needed money, while her husband is in prison, expecting to be released in the near future. Also, they are both heroin addicts from broken homes (Viktorija explains that she has always been drawn to abandoned places and street life, never getting along with her parents), which makes them practically unemployable and dependent on handouts from the social security system. Their dreams are simple: to have a roof over their heads, running water, electricity and a warm bed to sleep in. However, they also have a number of obstacles in their way, addiction being just one of them.
The outcome of their battle is still uncertain, and the question of whether or not they are strong enough to endure the hardships still hangs in the air. Their love for and loyalty to each other are never in doubt, even though she can be moody and he is usually selfish. Nevertheless, what they need to do badly is to love themselves, which constantly seems an impossible task.
A lack of love, or at least compassion, on the part of the filmmaker is never a problem, since Blažin always finds the right balance in terms of how close she can get while not prying in the slightest. Of course, she gets a lot of help from her protagonists, especially Viktorija, who is a fascinating, intelligent and articulate person, deliberately open about herself without exhibiting a modicum of naivety, but also self-destructive and therefore weak.
How Much Do You Love Yourself? is also very polished in terms of style, with slick cinematography by Darko Herič, offbeat editing by Zlatjan Čučkov and a minimal yet mood-dictating original score written by Drago Ivanuša. Under Blažin’s self-assured leadership, the empathy that the film instils in the viewer feels completely genuine and never manipulative.
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