Broken by Nature, Overcoming with Nature

in 20th ZagrebDox International Documentary Film Festival by Igor Angjelkov

The broken wings of the cormorant serves as just one such motive and inspiration for the repeated flight of facing life’s challenges, according to Igor Angjelkov. Here, Igor diagnoses Petra Seliskar’s documentary that follows one woman’s long struggle against illness with bravery and humour. 

There is a scene in the documentary Body that sublimates the entire philosophy of human existence. While the main protagonists are walking by the beautiful Prespa lake in the south of Macedonia, Urska finds the remains of a pelican’s wings. She takes them in her hands and wonders if she could take them as a souvenir, as a memory of this mythical place where her illness started, but which at the same time serves as a holiday, as a respite from the long healing process she is going through. In fact, when Urska takes the broken wing in her hands, it seems to invisibly become a part of her tortured body with drugs, as if it slowly begins to integrate itself on her back, becoming an integral part of her being, which is ready to await them, the next life challenges, full of energy.

Body, by the Slovenian director Petra Seliskar, was one of the films that captivated with its beauty at the 20th edition of ZagrebDox. An unpretentious, warm, immediate work that gets under your skin from minute to minute and unobtrusively, but powerfully, manages to ask the main questions of life that concern us all, sooner or later. Documentaries may not be able to change the world, but they can bring attention to some important topics that, on a human level, we are all trying to look straight in the eye.

Interestingly, the first half of the film looks so recognizable, and rather makes you think that by using archival material today, anyone can, in one way or another, make a documentary. But the difference between an ordinary and a top creative documentary always contains the artist’s signature in the background. The story of the pianist Urska and her “collecting of rare diseases”, as she knows how to joke with herself, is a delicate subject that needs an empathetic approach, and the director’s long-term friendship and knowledge of the subject definitely guarantees it.

Introducing us to the heroine in his film, Seliskar actively participates in her “undressing” in front of the hidden eye of the camera, behind which the experienced cinematographer Brand Ferro hunts every significant moment during the confession and self-purification. Far from the urban chaos and criticism of her parents, Urska tries to go through the process of self-reflection. How to continue after chemotherapy? Could some nefarious disease be waiting around the corner again with its own demands on her tortured body? The location for this resurgence in life, for rebirth as a phoenix from the ashes, is exactly where the whole thing began. Prespa is like a home away from home, like nature that heals, like a place that contains that much-needed element – water, in which you can simultaneously dive deep (into yourself), but also float to the surface as a completely new person.

Seliskar skilfully portrays all these emotional thoughts of her friend and protagonist on the big screen, plunging us deep into the lake, where fish swim freely, but where the human body is a stranger. However, recognizing the impulse of some distant past expressed in millions of years, the body knows how to adapt and send new vibrations to Urska’s mind that gently advise her to move on. Yes, to carry on as the supreme idea of life, as a challenge in which the two daughters will be the wax for her broken wings, which will once again soar high into the sky. The metaphor in this wonderful documentary is finely rounded with a visit to the almost untouched ‘Snake Island’, where snakes rule, but there are also turtles, cormorants, flowers, mushrooms that guarantee a delicious dinner by the campfire. Fire and water: opposites, but also compatible elements that each of us contains.

And one more thing! This documentary also contains that much-needed thread of engagement that every contemporary documentary must and should have. Confronting the disorganization and inefficiency of the state health care system subtly runs through the entire performance, as much as it should, so that it does not become dominant, and in the end perhaps boring, because we have all faced it. A good counterpoint to it is good humor, which, thank God, Urska possesses in abundance.

Body is the triumph of life over death. In it, “everything is true, but nothing is true”, as Albert Camus stated. Navigating that thin line in an existentialist manner opens countless possibilities for creation to the author of this film, and provides her and our film and life heroine new motives for continuing her struggle in this world of vile demons. With the passing of years, and therefore mortality becoming inexorably more apparent, this is a film that should fill even the discerning viewer with heightened emotions. And after a film screening, such emotions are undoubtedly one of the most important elements, each of us must surely agree. That is why it’s important, if possible, to see this documentary, if nothing else, for the future decisions we all have to make.

Review is edited by Steven Yates; © FIPRESCI 2024

Напишете коментар

Вашата адреса за е-пошта нема да биде објавена. Задолжителните полиња се означени со *