8 January 2014 | lampic
Incredibly sad story
"Master of my own body" started first as a short story by Croatian writer Slavko Kolar (could it be the same guy who wrote all those children's books from my childhood?) and story was so powerful that it got translated into theater stage in 1956. - nothing less than celebrated "Gavella" theater - until it got a completely new life as a movie in 1957. Since I have not seen stage play, I can only assume that director Fedor Haneković closely followed stage adaptation and he even selected some of original actors who played these role in theater. It turned out very well, got awarded with several awards and its remembered as one of rare 1950s movies that people still love today, though watching it again now, I was surprised with depth hidden behind what is universally perceived as a comedy, it is not. Its actually a very sad story.
The main focus here is old rural world of impoverished villagers in a countryside - we are talking about dirt-poor life, constant worry about debt, survival and money. In these conditions having a healthy, strong cow is equal to being rich. So when young guy loses family cow due to negligence (he is not bad, he is simply young, naive and ready to answer charms of sexy widow playfully winking at him) its a disaster of epic proportions, "I would rather die myself than to have my poor cow die" exclaims father. Sounds perhaps incredible today when there's almost nothing that can't be bought but apparently this was long ago when such basic things as food depended on that darn cow. There is such an uproar around family table that young guy can't do anything else but to look around village is there any girl available for marriage, who might bring another cow as a dowry. There is - a wealthy family with lots of cows and two daughters, but first they want to marry off the older, limping girl. The deal is quickly done with young couple married and from here we follow what a terrible, heart breaking deal this is for both of newlyweds - groom feels pushed into selling himself for a family greed, bride quietly suffers her fate of being unloved and ignored. The script is so rich with colloquial humor and supporting roles of family & relatives are so broadly painted with satirical-but-recognizable characterizations that lots of people still see this as a great comedy - ha, ha, look at these greedy peasants - but I was deeply moved by unfairness of it all, young guy (Julije Perlaki) trapped in situation that he couldn't help and most of all, sweet, quiet bride (excellent, powerful performance by Marija Kohn) limping trough this cruel life and buying love potion to somehow get husband to like her. This is not a comedy, its really sad story.
The stage play and movie later left huge effect on careers of both actors who played parents - Mladen erment and Nela Erinik became so associated with these roles that it kind of effectively pigeonholed them into a box, where they played peasants more or less for the rest of their lives.