24 April 2006 | donelan-1
Snoopy's Homeric epic
It is a dark and stormy night when a mysterious woman arrives at an island in a magical boat. Is she a witch? A seductress? A liberator? All or none of the above? Or just a refugee from the storm? Don't expect any answers, because Serbs and Croatians have learned to distrust answers. During WWII, they fought each other when they were not fighting (or allying themselves with) the Germans, and Tito cobbled Yugoslavia together under the Soviet Union by flaunting its independent thinking, whether that independence was real or imaginary.
Serbo-Croatia is also the place where Milman Parry discovered a living tradition of oral epic poetry, improvised by illiterate bards, and showed that ancient epics like the Iliad and the Odyssey also grew out of an oral tradition before they were written down. Modern Serbo-Croatian poetry, though it is composed for publication by individual poets, has a stark and deceptive simplicity that echoes and ironically comments on a long epic tradition. Where else would you find titles like SOMEWHERE AMONG US A STONE IS TAKING NOTES, or DISMANTLING THE SILENCE (two books by Charles Simic)? In the film, a mismatched group of people vent their frustrations by gathering to drink and repeat the same jokes, until the storm and the mysterious woman stir up fantasies of what their lives could have been, or buried animosities. Any attempt to express themselves publicly, with song or speech, is greeted by a shower of cobblestones from the island's respectable women, all clad in black from head to toe. Yet the characters and their situation are portrayed so matter-of-factly that all of this seems quite natural.
None of the director's films appear to have made it to video or DVD, and since this film is in Eastmancolor, it may be too faded to reproduce without serious restoration. But it should be on any archive's list of films worth saving from oblivion.