Blesok no. 57, November-December, 2007
I am from Titov Veles
In the official announcement of the awards of the 28th Manaki Brothers Festival we saw that the jury needed as long as nine hours to reach the final decision on the awards. This very fact shows that this year’s competition of cinematographers was really big and that there were some top works. One of the arguments is the unprecedented exception that, for the second time in the 28th history of the festival, the jury awarded two equal golden cameras 300 to two cameramen, Jaromir Sofr for the movie I Served the King of England, and Dragan Marković for the movie The Living and the Dead. Most probably there were many disagreements when it came to reaching the decision for the Silver and Bronze Camera. Be it as it may, the Belgium cinematographer Virginiе Saint-Martin won the silver for her work on I Am from Titov Veles, and the movie automatically had an award at home. The explanation on the award of the jury states: “This film uses an original artistic and cinematographic language to present the powerful family tragedy of three sisters whose hopes create a fascinating, deep and unusual story.” But the explanation of the jury is only partially a reflection of what the movie offers. We are sure that even for the broadest film audience the photography of Virginiе Saint-Martin is a real aesthetic experience, and the impressions about the film are thus lifted to a higher level. However, the beautiful pictures can not hide the lack of narrative and dialogical context, nor correct the misbalance that inevitably results from the problem of the characters. All the clarifications of the story say that the film is about three sisters… but the film is in first person singular, coming from the mute mouth of Afrodita (Labina Mitevska), although the title “I was born…” partially justifies it. If the character of Slavica (Ana Kostovska) is developed and defined to some extent, Sappho (Nikolina Kujača) is completely out of the movie, both as an actor and when it comes to text. On the other hand, the stressed and continued eroticism of Afrodita which is only functional to some extent, comes dangerously close to exhibitionism as the movie progresses. It is difficult to predict if it will sell the movie. We shall allow ourselves to ask, rather than moralise, what the function of oral sex is in the story, especially when it is done by the “innocent” (27 year old) Afrodita. It is not about whether the scene is vulgar or aesthetically questionable. It is simply unnecessary.
We are also not sure if the casting master could have found a better solution for the character of Aco (Xhevdet Jashari), who looks like an anaemic erotomaniac, who obviously misses text to build his character more thoroughly.
When we return to the script component of the movie, despite the attempt to portray the psychological moods and conditions that result from the action of the movie via the off monologues of Afrodita, they nevertheless remain only an attempt. The idea to tell a story about the complex intimate side of the relations of the three sisters and their connection with an ultimately asocial milieu in which life is lowered to vegetative existence, and the perspectives to a predetermined loser… all of this has a legitimacy and potential for an excellent movie story. Unfortunately, the story has been lost in an unnecessary “cruel romanticism” and in its autism it can not find the real words, it does not manage to justify (nor explain) the situations and behaviours of the characters although there is an “attractive” literary motive for that, such as the dying of a city in its own lead dust. Instead, the movie is often burdened by unnecessary and repetitive symbolisms that are on the verge of naiveté and banality.
I Am from Titov Veles is in any case a professionally made film, with numerous beautiful sequences, such as the scenes of the dream of the reeds in the lake and boat, the excellently designed stage and costume atmosphere, as well as the excellently made close ups (of Afrodita and Slavica) and details.
Undoubtedly, compared to her first movie, How I Killed a Saint, Teona Mitevska is maturing as a director, and in cooperation with the camera of Virginiе Saint-Martin she finds very attractive and intelligent visual solutions. We have to be fully affirmative to this part of the work of the director.
In the end, it only remains to conclude with by saying that in I Am from Titov Veles there is an obvious discrepancy between the good picture and poor text; therefore we can eventually evaluate it as a correct film that misses integral and consistent approach.
Translated by: Elizabeta Bakovska