Life of Adjustment
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about” was the first thing that came to my mind after watching “Import” – a short feature by EnaSendijarević. In the movie we follow one day of life of Bosnian family living in the Netherlands. Two girls at school,mother – a nurse at local elderly home and unemployed father – they all strive to find themselves in the new reality. This little drama shows also family struggle to remain together and cultivate national feelings. The director follows linear storytelling and uses chronological order, bur shows characters in parallel to reflect simultaneous time flow. Sendijarević chose an interesting way to start her movie – though firstly she presents each charactersequentially (in the order: the father, the kids and the mother), it is the fourth take that attracts viewer’s attention the most. Seeing the father lying on the floor, with resigned expression on his face and a cigarette in his mouth is intriguing and at the same time foreshadows the difficulty of topic raised in “Import”. Stories pertaining to each character follow a three act structure – some of them have clearly identified division, whereas others leave some space for interpretation. All of them, however, have distinct climax points.
Visual language of the film precisely highlights the situation the family is in. Silhouettes are placed in weird spots of the frame which gives an impression that family doesn’t fit in the western reality. This feeling is intensified by the presence of many geometric shapes – rectangular buildings, triangular roofs and straight lines. This also shows a metaphorical opposition between the Western World, where everything is symmetric and “cut out” of material and the Southern World, where things are more natural and chaotic. Camera movements are scarce; wide and full shots predominate and motion is reserved only for turning points of the movie. The director uses close-ups only to highlight details or intensify particular emotions. One interesting shot is used to show confrontation between two girls and their schoolmates, when the girls refuse to share cookies with a boy who is a Gypsy. In the scene both the girls and the boy are cut at the eye level, which gives an impression of tense atmosphere and brings to mind bloodcurdling face-off from a western movie.
Editing strengthens the effect conveyed by visual language and ensures that the movie matches reality. The beginning and upcoming events are composed mainly of short takes so as to introduce a viewer into the situation and provide “a key” to decipher conveyed messages. Another stylistic device used to facilitate the movie reception is an assigned set of colours for particular character. The father appears often among dark blue, greyish, brown and shaded tones, the girls are usually linked with brighter and more varied colours, whereas the mother is mostly associated with vivid blue uniform. Further development of action is constituted by longer takes, which most often come in an order: the father, the girls, the mother, however with some exceptions. Cuts usually reflect normal flow of time, build logical transitions, with the exception when a person experiences a critical situation. This happens roughly at the same time for each of the characters – the father sees news from his missed homeland, the mother helps a doctor to save a dying patient and the girls are rejected by their fellows after a fight – and is strengthened by the sequence of jump cuts between the threads.
To capture the reality more closely, the director concentrates on the surrounding diegetic sounds and, similarly to camera movement, reserves music for deep emotional moments. Background sounds such as buzz of unadjusted TV, rushing cars or heavy breathing make the movie more disturbing in reception and induce a viewer to concentrate on the symbolic layer of the film. Leading music theme appears in the beginning and towards the end. Its simplicity and childish character brings out connotations about family vulnerability and confusion in the new reality.
To further build on realism rules, Sendijarevićintroduced to the feature a mixture of professional and non-professional actors. On the one hand, it provides more natural acting style. On the other hand, their way of speaking and actual movements are of second importance as majority of communication and feelings are transmitted by facial expressions.
Last but not least, the movie is entrenched in important social and cultural context. First of all, it depicts the topic of refugees. With Europe being flooded by immigrants from Syria, Sendijarević surprisingly chose to come back to the times of Bosnian War and tell a story of previous immigration wave. Nevertheless, after a deeper thought, her choice seems logical and reasonable as by analysing the past events, she can provide us with greater distance in understanding current situation.
Undoubtedly, this movie provides a viewer with some valuable hints in understanding the position of people that come from a completely different background and are bound to adjust to a new world. For example, during the course of the movie, the father is relentlessly trying to fix an antennae to provide his family with an access to television. It made me think: why did the director choose him to do that? Why do we have to listen to the unpleasant buzz of grey dots on the screen, see him going up extremely high ladder, and miserably stare at the screen showing “PLEASE WAIT…” Why couldn’t he be fixing a tap or painting walls? And then I realised how great metaphor of the process of adaptation it was. The father was adjusting an antennae just like the family had to adapt to the new reality – the process which often is long, unpleasant and frustrating.
Rating: 4.5/6 stars