Fine Dead Girls
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Fine Dead Girls (Fine Mertve Djevojke) – Amazon.com Exclusive
A report of a kidnapped child triggers an investigation that uncovers nightmarish conditions in a seedy apartment building in Zagreb: none of the residents are as they seem and when they learn the truth about each other, the pervasive climate of mistrust in the building explodes into violence.
The hostility and misery of the characters' lives project vivid echoes of Croatia's recent past, as the country slowly emerges from years of ethnic violence during the Balkans war.
"A stylishly-lensed film noir." -Variety
"A choice chunk of Croatian allegory which succeeds nicely!" -Village Voice
Fine Dead Girls is an official selection of the prestigious, award-winning Global Lens Collection presented by the Global Film Initiative. In Croatian with English subtitles.
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Readying oneself to watch a film that highlights poverty and sexism in Zagreb may be a daunting task, but Fine Dead Girls is well worth the effort. It is astounding how director Dalibor Matanic has managed to bring some initial absurdist humor into this disturbing Croatian tale about a lesbian couple, Iva (Olga Pakalovic) and Marija (Nina Violic), who rent a room in what they hope will be a peaceful apartment complex. Immediately upon moving in, they begin to learn just how perverted, unsanitary, and violent the other tenants are. The extremity of these other characters is what gives Fine Dead Girls a slightly humorous edge. However, all jokes end as the landlord's dim-witted son, Daniel (Kresimir Mikic), continually preys on Iva until the couple is forced to take action. Though the landlord, Blaz (Ivica Vidovic), has a sharp-tongued, homophobic wife who is afraid the girls have AIDS, Blaz remains a sympathetic character throughout this utter tragedy. Beautifully shot, Fine Dead Girls' several romantic moments are handled with cinematic creativity, while scenes alternating Iva and Marija's love and their external troubles build suspense effectively. The film steers clear of melodrama, despite its being filled to the brim with doomed characters. Ultimately, it is Pakalovic and Violic's fine acting an innovative script that distinguishes the film from other bleak tales of prejudice. --Trinie DaltonSee all Editorial Reviews
- Discussion guide
- Director's notes
- About Croatia
- Historical background
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"According to Croatian news reports, the mayor of Zagreb ordered theater director Darko Stazic to remove the poster from all public areas after an unprecedented campaign against it by Catholic and other religious groups. They denounced the poster as blasphemy."
Interestingly, the blasphemy issue arose because the poster showed two women in long robes, one of which might have been construed to be the Virgin Mary, in a tender embrace. Apparently the sexuality of the story was not the issue as much as the suggestion that the Virgin might accept the loving embrace of a woman. Interestingly enough, for me the famous picture (and sculpture) by Thomas Blackshear entitled "Forgiven", which shows Jesus embracing and uplifting a presumably repentant sinner at the moment of death, has exactly the same format as the disputed poster. However, at least in the DVD version, there really are no religious overtones.
Rather, the story deals with the salacious attitudes of the heterosexual members of the apartment dwelling when two lesbians move in. The women are private and not ostentatious about their sexuality, but because they refuse the advances of the neighborhood lecher - the son of the building owners - all hell breaks loose. The sex scene between the women - there is really only one involving full nudity - is beautifully and tastefully filmed. The heterosexual rape scene and other violent scenes are grim, but thank heaven not overly explicit. I found the story line a bit confusing, and will need to view the DVD again to sort it out completely; I will not object to doing so, and hope to share it with a friend. The English subtitles are well done, and not obtrusive, helping to focus the viewer on the exquisite cinematography rather than distract from it.
This movie definitely has a message, and while the story is extremely painful, it is powerful in presenting that message.
The story (set in Zagreb) is told through Iva, one of two women who rent an apartment from an older couple. The wife (Olga) is a nosy-body who is constantly looking for her son to marry. The movie begins with Iva, who has gone to the building with a police detective to look for her 4-year-old son, who she swears was kidnapped by the old woman. Iva, unable to find her son, tells the detective that the tenants are lying, and gives a story (most of movie told in flashback) about what happened with her and Marija, her lover and about the other tenants.
The movie goes back in time, with Iva and Marija, lesbians, moving in and being watched by a strange man. The movie then spirals into a big, insane, phantasmagorical narrative, with odd tenants and situations that ultimately leads to horrific results. I don't wish to give away the story any more than I have to.
The movie's narrative is reminiscent of "Rosemary's Baby" and "Crimes of Passion," with a little surrealism thrown into the mix. There may several other nods, but those two I quickly noticed. Whether or not director Dalibor Matanic was criticizing Croatia for its (supposedly) unchanged, conservative values or not may be worth analyzing. With many of these ex-Yugoslavian countries searching for national identity (and unity), the plethora of movies produced by young filmmakers mainly focus on the search for identity and how different people perceive one another through prejudicial eyes. I didn't feel entirely fulfilled with the ending. The movie is a brief 77 minutes, but it doesn't feel that short.
The DVD release is by First Run Features and has some bonus features.
The movie is NOT for everyone, and, as I have stated, many Croatians and Slavs may take offense at the characters and narrative. Negative stereotypes are usually good for opening dialogue about identity. I would recommend mostly for student looking to analyze post-Tito cinema. Although there are some other (and better) ex-Yugoslavian national cinema films available ("Pretty Village, Pretty Flame" comes to mind), this one is one of the better-made, with a decent story, kooky characters, and causes one to think... maybe.
Besides, the character of Blaz, Olga's husband, is played by the late, great Ivica Vidovic, and I liked his acting and character the best.
Some excellent (sometimes over-the-top) acting. Great cinematography. There is quite a bit of graphic, physical violence (I'm not exaggerating), language, nudity, and adult situations, which may be hard-to-watch.
4 of 5. Worthwhile, but not for the casual film watcher.