A Simple Touch, A Golden Touch
by Aritra Dey
TLR Rating: 8 1/2 Reels.
War is a terrible thing and its aftermath spells doom. After the physical torture, the mental pain lingers on in the survivors, tormenting them and their lives which have become upturned due to the chaos. The Bosnian war was no exception, and after leaving a trail of broken bodies, it silently shook the foundations of a set life and rocked the harmony of the middle class families living in the country. Director Ines Tanovic takes us inside the home of the Susics, a well to do family and their struggles as they try to cope up with the post war trauma. Without bringing any of the controversial political topics, she narrates a simple tale of the changing lives and the struggles to adjust in the new founded capitalistic era. The Bosnian life, its culture and the city of Sarajevo form the backdrop of this drama, as we stand witness to the everyday lives of the Susic family.
The sheer simplicity of its narration sets ‘Our Everyday Life’ apart from its peers. Family dramas are a common subject but few dare to tell it in its naked version. A middle class family has hardly an exciting thing going on and tries to scoop out little joys from the monotonous days. Ines showed just that, delving into the shopping bags and account books of this Bosnian household. Coupled with the ordinary life images are the little indications of the massive political shift in the country. Mrs. Marija Susic, a retired teacher, is shocked to hear the price of a bag of peppers at a local market. Mr. Muhamed Susic, CEO of the company he had sustained for 40 years, is forced to sell off his shares and retire in order to accommodate a new economic policy. Sasha, their 40 year old divorced son whiles away his time, unable to find a decent job, much to the annoyance of his father who belittles him constantly. Their daughter, Senada lives with her boyfriend far away and her long distance calls are a source of joy to the family. Ines takes up these loose threads and spins them into a beautiful pattern, connecting the dots and erecting a symmetrical structure. The saddening frustration of a person after being neglected after sacrificing his best years for a cause is evident and comes of no surprise when Muhamed vents out his frustration on his wife and son or when he spends his time with his friends at a local salon, drinking and smoking despite being a diabetic. He is forced to adjust to the upcoming new life and complains against it. The post war joblessness and separation trauma catches up on Sasha and he spends his time with his friends reminiscing about the past days, dwelling in its nostalgia and occasionally creating posters on his computer. Marija struggles to pacify her husband and son and like a true mother and wife, constantly ties to hold the family together. She is the epitome of self-sacrifice, preferring to give marital tips to her pregnant daughter over the phone than to wait in line for her breast cancer checkup which she hides initially from her family. Senada, though quite afar, struggles between her pregnancy and absence of her boyfriend.
Amidst all these troubles, the family bonds remained unbroken, even though sometimes it teetered on the edge of cracking apart. Ines with her poetic finesse showed us some picturesque moments that only a family can share between themselves. Marija and Muhamed, after a violent argument quietly talk about their daughter’s pregnancy in bed, showing the deep roots of a husband-wife relationship, even though it might seem stormy. Perpetual loggerheads, the son and the father share a moment of union when Marija is admitted to the hospital for treatment, in the garden over a cigarette. Muhamed, despite his rough exterior, breaks down and holds his wife after learning about her sickness. A dinner table reunion after Senada arrives is cherished. Marija, although sick herself, never fails to remind Sasha about Muhamed’s diabetes. These tiny moments make up a family. It isn’t perfect always but it remains forever and can withstand a thousand storms. Ines, very simply and with relatable examples, nails this thought to our heads.
Apart from the lucid storytelling, Ines employed a method of direction that might seem too boring, but proved effective when the country of Bosnia acted as a living character in the film. The camera seldom cut between scenes and opted for a follow through shot in case it needed to stay focused on the principal character of the scene. In most of the scenes, the camera stays still, capturing the movements in a single frame. This enabled the actors to bring out the tiniest of emotional changes on the face and body and react appropriately. The background, be it the streets of Sarajevo or the well decorated apartment, played its part in highlighting the emotional quotient of the moment. The entire effect looked extremely natural and never played on the overtone, which could easily have been accomplished. The colors of Bosnia, the yellow walls, the blue tiles and the red peppers each seemed to signify some of the joy that is present in the nook and corners of everyday life. The movie ends with a satisfying note as the almost estranged family reunites after Marija is released from the hospital. Muhamed and Suneda prepare to take her home in a cab. Sasha and Lejla, Marija’s ex-student, who are in love, take a walk down a tunnel. The ending shot captures their walk till the end, until the pair holds hands and walks out into the sun.
‘Our Everyday Life’ is a visual treat and a mental antidote. It rebuffs capitalism but never speaks out against it. It is like a morning dew, fresh and beautiful, but unnoticed and often trampled by the ignorant. It shimmers wonderfully though, forcing a smile out of anyone who glances at it. It is not a film which all critics would sit up and take note of. There is no element other than its crystal clear simplicity which makes it stand out and simplicity is a veil. The Oscar snub is hardly unsurprising and the sheer lack of its popularity is expected. However it is a gem that is hidden in a labyrinth and needs to see the light of the sun so that it can get its glittering value which it deserves. And then ‘Our Everyday Life’ can be happy.
The author is a software engineer at Infosys and a passionate film and football buff, with a special interest in deciphering the literature behind the movies.