“These are the Rules” by Ognien Svilicic takes home best actor award in Venice Orrizzonti

By Moira Sullivan

“These are the Rules” by Ognien Svilicic

The Venice Film Festival, which ended on September 6, screened an exceptional film in the Orrizzonti section: “These are the Rules” by Ognien Svilicic, a Croatian, Serbian and Macedonian co-production. Set in modern day Zagreb, the film is about a middle age couple, Maja and Ivo (brilliantly performed by Jasna Žalica and Emir Hadžihafizbegovićwhose teenage son Tomica (Hrvoje Vladisavljević) returns home early in the morning and locks himself in his room. The couple is routinized. but not without affection towards one another and certainly towards their son. Ivo is a bus driver and Maja, a housewife. They go through the daily rituals such as preparing lunch - cutting vegetables and setting the table even with this new development preoccupying their minds. Knocks on Tomica’s door are in vain when finally he emerges clearly pretty beaten up in the face. His concerned parents take him to the emergency room and the attending physician barely looks at him or even takes an x-ray. Later at home, Tomica faints in the bathroom and is rushed to the hospital and never regains consciousness. 
The filmmaker states that the story is based on real life events. What is most astonishing about the film is the indifference almost every person involved in this situation displays towards the incident, Tomica and his parents. A classmate shows Ivo a video of the assault by a classmate. When Ivo shows the video to the police they claim that it is not evidence and he must find more evidence.
The manner in which the story enfolds is the most compelling aspect of the film, apart from the story. The daily routines of this couple in their apartment and the ways in which their truths slowly emerge are subtle yet powerful. There is no increasing tension,  dramatic acting or dramatic music to intensify the story.  It is told simply and truthfully.
This film had much in common with Chaitanya Tamhane’s “Court” which won the Lion of the Future, Court.  The absence of drama, the kind that really belongs to the theater does not always belong in a film. Tomica’s parents are outraged by the incident that involves their son in which he is beaten to death on the streets of Zagreb and they express their grief in their own ways. Their sorrow is intimately felt and yet as a spectator it is not easy to refrain from feeling indignation towards the careless police emergency physician and hospital personnel. Tomica dies as the result of his injuries, a gentle and sensitive young man, who like his parents lives an honest life and is subjected to careless disregard and irresponsibility. Tomica’s empty room with the artifacts of a short life are important to behold  and feel as is the sadness that his parents feel in losing their only son. All of this is expressly related through high quality performances and cinematic style making “These are the Rules” one of the best films screened at the Venice Film Festival this year.
The SPECIAL ORIZZONTI AWARD for best actor went to Emir Hadžihafizbegovic for his role as Ivo.

Emir Hadžihafizbegovic

For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan

© 2014 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 09/24/14
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