Family, Tension, and a Feeling of Wanting More
Year Released: 2022
Runtime: 1h 12m
Director(s): Antoneta Alamat KusijanoviÄ‡
Writer(s): Antoneta Alamat KusijanoviÄ‡, Frank Graziano
Cast: Gracija Filipovic, Danica Curcic, Leon Lucev, Cliff Curtis, Jonas Smulders
Where To Watch: Opens July 15th in Chicago at the Gene Siskel Film Center
Director Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic has impressed me, MURINA is her first feature-length film, and I can only hope it isn’t her last. For me, the film had everything I could hope for in a filmgoing experience. A compelling cast, natural, heartfelt dialogue, and some of the most gorgeous locations I’ve ever seen. A co-production with Croatia, Brazil, USA, and Slovenia, the film had such a natural resonance that I couldn’t help but be hooked to it from start to finish. A film festival darling that has covered some of the biggest festivals and took home a few prestigious awards as well.
This film defines the sense of foreboding; each scene builds with anticipation of everything breaking and coming on done. Gracija Filipovic (Julija) deserves an Oscar for her performance in this, and I can’t remember the last time I felt so much tension between two characters. While Leon Lucev (Ante) gave an outstanding performance as Jilija’s father, her performance sold the entire film. While not a direct remake, you can see the clear inspiration from INTO THE BLUE, a short film directed by Kusijanovic and staring Filipovic. Please don’t take that as an insult; many directors are inspired by their shorts to create feature-length films.
Although I don’t think I could adequately review the film without mentioning Hélène Louvart, the cinematographer. Sure, the coastlines of Croatia are beautiful on their own, but Louvart takes this gorgeous canvas and crafts a superbly beautiful film that could tell a story just through the scenery alone. I think that cinematography, along with a film's score, is often overlooked. I usually take both for granted until I see a movie like this or NOMADLAND or listen to the score from PHANTOM THREAD. These take the rules and bring them to the next level with their use in the film.
For the audience who is a little hesitant to jump into an international language film, the executive producer for the film was Martin Scorsese (GOOD FELLAS, TAXI DRIVER.) He wouldn’t put his name on something he didn't believe in.
While the film has been in the works for years, it is, unfortunately, a story that points out some significant issues even in today's society. That makes Julija so much more of a powerhouse in the film. While she’s portrayed as a teenager, she has wisdom and understanding beyond her years. She also has a drive and determination that she won’t let go of. This is seen by one of my favorite quotes from the director “She is like the Murina, the moray eel, an animal that will bite its own flesh to break herself free. Her power is her faith in herself, in nature, and in the unknown. Her power is that she refuses to be silenced.”
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