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Terror and Joy

Terror and Joy: The Films of Dusan Makavejev

Lorraine Mortimer
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Terror and Joy
    Book Description:

    Du an Makavejev is a filmmaker, teacher, and intellectual whose films intersect with major historical and political upheavals in Eastern Europe—World War II, the unification and breakup of Yugoslavia, and the fall of communism. Subversive and moving, his films remain touchstones for transcultural and political cinema. Matching the intensity of the films, Lorraine Mortimer takes a radically interdisciplinary approach in this first book-length critical analysis of Makavejev’s work.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6632-4
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)

    This book is about the work of Dušan Makavejev, filmmaker, activist, critic, and teacher—and one of the most eloquent and principled commentators on the remains of Yugoslavia and future Balkan and post-Communist possibilities. Makavejev’s films of the 1960s and 1970s remain an international touchstone of radical, transcultural, political cinema. His work as a whole testifies to the possibility of freedom from tyranny and servitude, to the interweaving of the practical and the poetic in human existence. Here I deal with eight of his films made between 1965 and 1994 , examining them historically, locally, politically, and aesthetically, highlighting their...

  5. chapter 1 Dušan Makavejev and His Context
    (pp. 1-22)

    At a conference at Harvard University in 1978, Dušan Makavejev conducted an experiment, bringing together and projecting a selection of Ingmar Bergman’s nonverbal sequences “to provide a unique experience for the participants” and address the question of whether it was possible “to construct (orreconstruct) a Bergman film that Bergman never made.”¹ Viewers would be freed from the need to follow plot structure, narrative development, and the verbal discourse of both Bergman’s characters and Makavejev himself. At the presentation, Makavejev stood before the audience in a black cape and a bright red woman’s hat. This attire constituted a “plea for...

  6. chapter 2 The Country of Movies
    (pp. 23-42)

    “The only difference between Stalin and Tarzan,” wrote André Bazin, “is that the films about the latter don’t pretend to be documentaries.”¹ Understanding such a point well, inWR: Mysteries of the Organism(1971 ) Makavejev confounded the categories of fiction and documentary, inserting actor Mikhail Gelovani, as Stalin in Mikhail Chiaureli’sThe Vow(1946 ), into his own film to make his own savagely playful and sobering film-argument. Makavejev later used Chiaureli’sThe Fall of Berlin(1949 ), with Gelovani’s “Stalin” as the heaven-derived hero inGorilla Bathes at Noon(1993 ).

    Jim Hoberman has spoken of the recasting...

  7. chapter 3 In Search of Understanding
    (pp. 43-65)

    If it troubled some that while separating his beliefs from theirs, Makavejev acknowledged a relationship to Stalin’s and Hitler’s greatest advertisers, Mikhail Chiaureli and Leni Riefenstahl, potentially more troubling was something he said to Michel Ciment in 1968 :

    If I can use material from Leni Riefenstahl, I will keep with respect the romanticism of the mass movements which destroyed the liberty of the individual. If I had the opportunity to use this material that I admire so much, since my ideas are totally opposed to hers, I would construct something which in the end has a completely different meaning,...

  8. chapter 4 The Fire in Us
    (pp. 66-94)

    In the 1960s, when the Avala film studio in Belgrade was looking for firsttime feature directors with new approaches and new stories, Makavejev decided to make a film in the famous copper-mining basin of Bor, in the mountains of Eastern Serbia. At one huge mine, copper, gold, and silver were extracted, and nearby there was a huge industrial complex. Before the Second World War, Makavejev told Jacques Bontemps and Jean-André Fieschi, the mine and industrial complex had been organized on an “absolutely colonial” model: the workers were “primitive” people and all the engineers and technicians were French.¹ After the war,...

  9. chapter 5 With Eggs, Flour, Sugar, and Berries—and a Certain Dose of Modesty
    (pp. 95-124)

    One day, quite some years ago, I was visited at my home by some Jehovah’s Witnesses. I spoke to them at the door, as I dared not let them in, and they tried to sell me some pamphlets and magazines.

    “This issue,” I was told, “is about what we can expect in the Lord’s Kingdom: Heaven.” I was shown the cover of the magazine, which depicted a farm in a valley. The surrounding hills were covered with trees, there were crops and vegetables in the fields, and in the foreground were standing a happy, healthy family. I was told that...

  10. chapter 6 Alchemists and Artisans
    (pp. 125-152)

    During the siege of Sarajevo, Srdjan Vuletić, a member of SaGA, the Sarajevo Group of Artists, made a short film calledI Burnt Legs(1994 ). A film student before the war, he had worked at the hospital when classes were over. His job included carrying amputated body parts to the crematorium. Opening his film with visuals of Sarajevo in the snow—with buildings burned out, demolished trams, and deserted cars—he inserts shots of one man, then another, in hospital beds being tube-fed through their noses. While the first is in discomfort, the second is sleeping, looking peaceful, his...

  11. chapter 7 Our Carnal Nature and Cosmic Flow
    (pp. 153-185)

    In 1999 , Novi Sad was subjected to an ongoing assault from NATO “smart” weapons, its citizens punished by the West for atrocities committed in the name of Serbian nationalism. The city, however, had not been controlled by Belgrade and had been in the hands of the opposition for years. It was a brutal, “cartoon-type decision,” said Makavejev, to target this city after it had demonstrated massive opposition within Serbia.¹ Yet it was typical of the West’s methods. Despite the presence of democrats committed to civil society, the West had the habit of dealing only with nationalists, trying to negotiate...

  12. Interlude
    (pp. 186-191)

    Writing in 1981, when there was no fighting in the Yugoslav mountains, when they belonged to “tourists, mountaineers and skiers,” Aleksa Djilas spoke of a war still going on.¹ The Communist bureaucracy, said Djilas, was fighting film battles with dead enemies, and so continued the civil war that it had won nearly four decades before:

    It is almost as if it were not satisfied that the “traitors” are “sufficiently dead.” As in some horrific and mysterious ritual, they are dug out of their graves and executed over and over again. These re-executions take place annually at the summer film festival...

  13. chapter 8 The World Tasted
    (pp. 192-224)

    Anthropologist Sydney Mintz noted that the Indo-European rootswādis the ultimate source of both “sweet” and “persuade.”¹ In his historical political-economic tracing of the links between sweetness and power he explores the way sugar became “one of the leading motivations for making overseas agricultural experiments of a mixed sort—that is, with capitalist means and unfree labor.” It was “one of the first items transformed from luxury to necessity, and thereby from rarity to mass-produced good, a transformation embodying both the promise and the fulfillment of capitalism itself.”² He concludes: To move from so minor a matter as sugar...

  14. chapter 9 Pigs, Pearls, and Immigrants
    (pp. 225-252)

    Six years before Makavejev’sMontenegro, or Pigs and Pearls(1981 ) was released, John Berger and Jean Mohr’s bookA Seventh Manappeared.¹ In this work we glimpse the greedy underbelly of a system in which one world feeds on another:

    Migration involves the transfer of a valuable economic resource—human labour—from the poor to the rich countries. The workers who migrate may have been unemployed in the country of origin, but this does not alter the fact that the community has invested considerable sums in their upbringing. Economists sometimes speak of “emigration as capital export” similar to the...

  15. chapter 10 The Soul Battered
    (pp. 253-280)

    Not long after Makavejev, in his soft-graveled voice, speaks of his director’s fate entwined with Hollywood reality and imaginings, there is a delightful chapter inHole in the Soul(1994 ), introduced, like each chapter of the film, by a cartoon image of Makavejev himself. The figure’s out fit changes colors and patterns—flashing greens and pinks, polka dots, stars and stripes—and the chapter is titled “How to Dress for Success?” because, in this country, “if you are in need, you can always get some quick, useless, and refreshing advice.” Makavejev clearly needs an image consultant! A skinny young...

  16. Epilogue
    (pp. 281-284)

    Like myself, Dina Iordanova decries the fact that the work of Makavejev and other Balkan filmmakers is too little known in the world at large, often even to cineastes. Making only nine feature films in thirty years, owing much to both his nonconformism and the hazards and tragedies of history, Makavejev was in a vanguard that he would not have chosen for himself—that of filmmakers and actors “turned cosmopolitan by the whims of history,” as Iordanova put it.¹ Though his cosmopolitanism was evident from the beginning of his career, he nevertheless experienced displacement and exile twenty years before the...

  17. NOTES
    (pp. 285-324)
    (pp. 325-330)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 331-337)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 338-338)