After a long separation, a father and his son spend the day fishing on the river bank. On a beautiful autumn Sunday, surrounded by the majestic countryside, they seem to be alone in the world. They must start all over again.
A young boy whose parents are divorced finally gets to spend some time with his dad. On a beautiful summer day the two of them go fishing, surrounded by unspoiled nature, as if they were alone in the world. As emotions slowly surface, the distant world around them eventually step in..."Venice Critics' Week's programmers wrote that Dad was "a film of suggestive images, evocative sounds, lyrical connections and secret intermittences of the heart whose symbolic value elaborates a story that has not been made by strictly consequential events." They added that the films's spirituality is worthy of the masterpieces by Tarkovsky and Sokurov."Written by
"The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return" – from the song "Nature Boy" by Eden Ahbez
Though Vlado Skafar is a Slovenian director of growing stature, he sees himself as primarily a poet and a writer and his films indeed have the quality of literature. Letter to a Child, chosen by Olaf Muller of Film Comment magazine as one of the ten best of 2008, was a stirring testament to the adventure of life in a series of heartfelt monologues prompted by the director's questions to a group of young children, teenagers, young adults, parents, and an elderly couple.
Skafar's latest film Dad (Oca), his first fictional feature, is one that defies easy description. Shot in a dreamy, poetic, and almost mystical style by cinematographer Marko Brdar, Dad focuses on a young boy (Sandi Salamon), about ten or eleven, who spends a summer day getting to know his father (Miki Ros) after what appears to be a long separation.
Filmed on a very limited budget and cast with non-professional actors, Dad is set in Prekmurje, a Slovenian region near the city of Murska Sobota in eastern Slovenia not far from the Hungarian border, an area that Skafar says are the locations of his childhood. The first Slovenian film to screen in the Critics Week sidebar of the Venice International Film Festival, the 71-minute film begins in silence on a Sunday afternoon in a wooded area close to a lake. There is no dialogue for the first five minutes, only the sounds of nature. As we watch water spiders chase each other, a young boy stands with his father fishing on the river bank.
As the conversation between father and son tentatively emerges, it appears as if they are getting to know each other, perhaps for the first time. Rather than talk about superficialities, each explores their strongest desires and deepest fears. They talk to each other with respect about things not normally discussed between parents and children, such as what they are feeling at the present moment and their fears of death. Above all, they listen to each other. When the boy brings up the subject of wood, the creation of his own alphabet, a book he is reading called "Horoscope," instead of feigning interest, the father asks probing questions to further explore his son's thoughts and feelings.
There are no cuts in the film, only fades to black and the gradual blending of images as one scene seamlessly folds into the next. As kafar describes it, "there is enough time in-between to allow the soul of one image to mingle with that of the other," and the effect is magical. Stretched out on the grass eating sandwiches, lying side by side, or running and playing together as if in a ballet, they reach out to each other through trial and error in their longing to establish a relationship. In one sequence, we hear the disembodied voices of the characters, words that may be from another time, their internal thoughts of the moment, or an experience outside of time altogether.
In the last part of the film, the idyllic setting of Sunday is transformed into the gritty reality of Monday as the scene shifts to a recently unemployed factory worker speaking to a group of men, bitterly questioning the ability of her family to survive the layoff, an incident based on actual events that occurred in Prekmurje at the start of filming.
The coda is Skafar's attempt to show how current political and social issues can affect personal relationships, especially the father's recollection of his former job as a forester and his concern for his son's future. Dad is a stunning achievement, a work of originality and sensitivity which, in its intimacy and depth, can easily be spoken of in the same breath as the films of Tarkovsky and Sokurov. Without question, Vlado Skafar is a director to watch closely.
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