Friday, September 17, 2010

Slovenian Cinema – Gut Wrenching Catharsis in “Soul at Peace”

I sympathize with the repentant souls, for there is nothing truly more impetuous than the authentic understanding of remorse and its rightful consequence. But there is something so disturbing about the kind of redemption that Tono, the protagonist in Vladimir Balko’s “Soul at Peace” needs.

Tono (Attila Mokos) just completed his 5 year stint in jail. He is bitter, suspicious of the child his wife says is his. He knows better. While in the slammer, he was diagnosed with Testicular Hypoplasia, a condition that prevents him from fathering a child. The local police constantly beats on his door. His friends have moved on, and life in a small town is a world of antipathy.

His friend Stefan (Roman Luknar) is badgering him back to the same scam that landed him in jail. But with adequate resolve to channel off his bitterness, he takes every challenge with assured stride: he takes the frowned-upon job of a gypsy’s assistant at the train station (which pays less than the unemployment dole outs); he borrows money to pay what he owes; he buys “his” child a dog; then teaches his cunning friend Stefan a lesson or two that needed teaching. But something is off. He is unable to pull the trigger for a deer he is hunting. It is a dilemma that glides along disturbingly with the calm in his soul.

It baffles me that his idea of salvation ends in something so tragic. Just when he has placed all the pieces together... It dawned on me that the idea of salvation is such a subjective concept.

Soul at Peace” boasts of dazzling camera work where the forest community comes off like a piece of paradise, and the performance of the ensemble is topnotch. Attila Mokos particularly consummates his character with dexterous unpredictability. Luknar, who plays schemy Stefan, is a charming, but dangerous antagonist whose bark was worse than his bite. The film is a new work released last year (2009).

Slovenia is a newly democratized country – and the richest Slavic nation state in Central Europe. The country declared its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.

I was actually surprised to learn that the fantastic Mr. Mokos only made 3 films. After all, Slovenian film industry is almost non-existent, averaging just 2 films per year since 1995. Mokos earlier appeared in another Slovenian film called “Landscape” (2000), a film that I actually have somewhere in my room. If I can just find it. Darn.

When deer hunting becomes a dilemma.

In a hilarious scene in the movie, Tono, Marek and Peter share "communal pissing" upon Tono's release from prison. Now, where's MMDA when you need them? ;->

Roman Luknar and Attila Makos

Roman Luknar

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