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The story AWAKENING FROM THE DEAD takes place at the beginning of the bombing, both in Belgrade and in one small town in Serbia, at the end of March 1999. Forty-year-old Mickey, an unaccomplished writer, a disillusioned assistant professor at the Faculty of Fine Arts, a discouraged democrat and a columnist, dismissed from a famous daily newspaper, emerges from his own grave and enters into his own life. Within 48 hours, he will try to achieve all those things he couldn't while he was alive. At the same time, post-mortem, he will try to save the dignity of his own community and his tribe, not taking too much care of himself. Written by
Awakening from the Dead is very personal, enclosed and introverted testimony of the times passed...not so long ago. I think it took a great deal of resolution and personal courage to deliver such an uncompromising work, cause it's not exactly a stepping stone or lucrative project, imo...not that director of Radivojevic's caliber needs reasserting himself.
This film is basically an extension of famous Black Yugoslav wave several decades later. Hard film to analyze due to dream (or nightmare) like mood, non linear narration and surrealism, it deals with the concept of the dead being able to come back to life so they can tend to unfinished business and visit friends and family.
How exactly Mickey (the protagonist) met his death wasn't clear from the start nor were the circumstances surrounding it. He simply and literally gets up from his grave and goes back to his old life: places of youth, parental home, the flat where he had lived with his wife and son and hometown, to visit old childhood friends. However, this is just a vessel to tell a broader story and soon the symbolism gets abandoned in favor of central idea: social critique and personal reflections on the political and spiritual turmoil the country (Serbia) had faced during those times.
The amount of body waste (puking, urinating, defecating) - banality of being alive - in this film (including one very unpleasant dream sequence) is startling and in contrast with the supernatural premise. The film is talky, not shying away from loud ideology and politics. Central figure, next to Mickey is his father, or rather relationship between the two which is underlined and will ultimately define this film, like in classic tragedies.
Surely, Radivojevic, by the looks of it, felt obliged to make this film and tell his version of the events during the difficult times. Perhaps even - compelled. The cinematography is harsh, black and white, heavy and depressing, lest for Mickey's young family's nest, the only place of light and color. Personal and stripped just like the characters - quite literally. Nothing short of few rounds of applause for the cast, all of the actors involved did marvelous job, just breathtaking and top notch.
One thing has dawned on me afterward....this is A Serbian Film before ASF. Not the same genre, or the same league, but it does bear some strong resemblance as far as motives and conclusion goes. Definitely more serious though. Not an easy one to recommend to casual viewer and not an easy one to rate. But an interesting, if not exactly entertaining experience and sadly, underseen.
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