Film Review: "ZVIZDAN" (The High Sun)

Film Review: Zvizdan (The High Sun)
Official Submission of Croatia to the 88th Academy Awards
European Film Promotion Screening Series
Los Angeles, October 2015

Let me start this review by stating that this is one of the most beautiful films this writer has seen all year!

It's the kind of film that wills its audience to beg for that particular ending and when it's given, you just heave a big sigh of relief and give the movie the most rapturous applause you can give. This movie is a testament to the enduring strength of love and should be seen by as many people as possible.

"The High Sun" is a romantic drama and tells of three different love stories set in three consecutive decades. The first love story is set in 1991 between Jelena and Ivan during the first days of the war between Croatia and Serbia. This writer is only vaguely familiar with the details of the Yugoslav wars so when the two lovers are introduced as they spend a lazy summer afternoon on the banks of a lake, we are lulled into a false sense of peace with the very lyrical staging of the scenes until we see a convoy of military jeeps disturbing the tranquility of the area. Ivan is Serbian who is in love with Jelena, a Croat. Their families are against their union but they continue on believing that their love will conquer all. Their love story ends in tragedy.

The next story is set ten years later in 2001 between Natasha and Ante and set in the same village from the first story but with houses in ruins caused by the preceding war. Natasha and her mother returns to their village to reclaim their house and continue their lives after it was disrupted by the war. Her father and her brother died in the war and she still harbors strong feelings against their Serbian neighbors who she blames for their deaths. One day, her mother commissions a handyman to help them repair their house. The handyman is a Serb named Ante. They begin an uneasy relationship forged mostly by her dislike of his ethnicity. As Ante quietly goes about doing his work, Natasha starts to notice him more and she develops an attraction to him, which he mostly ignores. One day, she invites Ante to the lake and they both discover that they do like each other but the pains of the last war is putting a wall between them. We leave them with their story going nowhere.

The final story is set in 2011 between Marija and Luka. We are introduced to Luka on a road trip showing the wide expanse of the modern world trying to break away from the painful memories of the last war. We see new constructions, we see hope. Luka is on the road with his best friend. They are going to their village (same village from the first and second stories) to support one their friends who is organizing a rave party. They pick up girls on the way and everyone seems to be having a good time. But not Luka. He is mostly pensive and his thoughts seem to be far away. He seems wary, unsure of going home. He has not seen his parents after setting off for college in the city. Later, we learn the reason of Luka's behaviour: He abandoned his girlfriend Marija because she was a Croat and he was a Serb. I cannot tell you how their love story unfolds and ends but you should have learned from the preceding love stories that love, true love, endures. It may come to an end at some point for two lovers but you know it will find another lover to continue the story.

I love this movie! Super love it! It is structured masterfully with nothing, no scene, no minute wasted. All three stories are linked by the same conflict, by the same village and, astonishingly, by the same set of actors playing multiple characters across all three stories. This is a masterpiece from filmmaker Dalibor Matanic. I love how the movie is titled as well because like the high sun, love at its most pure, shines a light like no other and gives us all hope amidst conflicts and wars, amidst tragedies and estrangements, amidst death and birth.

Tihana Lazovic, Goran Markovic, Nives Ivankovic and Dado Cosic are among the actors who delivered excellent performances in this beautiful, beautiful film!

Rating: 5 superstars!!!

Raymond Lo

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