July 24, 2008
Beneath Her Window, 2003
Another pleasant surprise from the Slovenian cinema series was Metod Pevec's lovely, slow brewing Beneath Her Window, a film vaguely reminiscent of Krzysztof Kieslowski's cinema (especially A Short Film About Love) in its interconnecting themes of obsession, missed connection, voyeurism, and chance, but played with the muted, idiosyncratic humor of a French romantic comedy. As in Kieslowski's films, the notion that subtle shifts in the alignment of fate lead to radically altered destinies also sets the tone for Beneath Her Window, an idea that is reinforced in the recurring episodes of Dusa (Polona Juh) ritualistically updating her astrological chart each morning and phoning her adviser to divine its meaning. Trained as a dancer, but making ends meet as a ballroom dance instructor, and stuck in a dead-end relationship with her married veterinarian, Boris (Robert Prebil), Dusa's life seems predictable even in its marginally controlled chaos. But Mars has now come into alignment, and change is bound to happen. Soon, her mother Vanda (Marijana Brecelj) breaks the news that her estranged father is returning home after abandoning the family on a spiritual quest to India, only to find out that officials have detained him, and now, only his pet king cobra will be released into their custody. Items have been disturbed inside the apartment - a clogged sink that now drains freely, a torn off ornament that has been reattached near the front door - reinforcing Dusa's suspicions that she is being stalked. Meanwhile, an amateur filmmaker named Jasha (Sasa Tabakovic) and his grandfather (Zlatko Sugman) have been working on an ornithological documentary on native birds, hoping to catch a sighting of a rare black moorhen believed to have made a nest with a white sparrow, unable to reproduce because of their speciological incompatibility, but immortalized in the romantic mythology of its enduring fidelity to its lost mate. In a sense, Dusa, too, is a lost sparrow, circling the wilderness, waiting to come home - a metaphor that is reflected in the juxtaposition of Jasha's blurred video footage of an apparent sighting of a moorhen in flight with the subsequent image of Dusa and Jasha walking back with his grandfather after the missed shot, the anxious, searching camera finally reaching its static equilibrium in the intimacy of their silent, passing glance.