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Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Coming-of-age drama Murina, Three Floors screened at TIFF

The Toronto International Film Festival screened Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic’s debut feature Murina and Nanni Moretti’s Three Floors.

Written by Shubhra Gupta | New Delhi |
Updated: September 16, 2021 9:46:45 pm
murina tiffMurina is a gorgeously shot film.

There’s so much swimming-diving-fishing-sailing in ‘Murina’ that when it ends you feel like you’ve emerged from a long watery submersion, during which a young woman comes of age. There’s water, water everywhere in this film, set in a laidback Croatian village off the Adriatic coast: everywhere you turn, there’s the astonishing azure blue of the sea.

Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic’s debut feature, executive-produced by Martin Scorsese, comes to TIFF 2021 riding on its buzzy Cannes award (Camera d’ Or, the top prize for first films). Sixteen-year-old Julija (Gracija Filipovic) lives with her parents, the exceedingly pretty Nela (Danica Curcic), and the heavy-handed Ante (Leon Lucev). As much as Julija is at home in the water, reminding you of a sleek seal, she is awkward and angular on land, constantly dodging her father’s bullet-like orders, and her mother’s exhortations, both startlingly similar.

murina movie A poster of Murina. (Photo: IMDb)

Why are you roaming around naked, barks Ante, go put something on. Nela parrots the same thing. They are clearly not comfortable with their daughter’s sturdy outlines in a swimming costume: what else do they expect her to wear when she literally lives in the water all day long? When a much-awaited guest and his party comes sailing in, Julija is made to appear before the company in a long-sleeved, matronly dress. That’s just the beginning of a series of discomfiting situations.

The guest is an old family friend. Javier (Cliff Curtis) is worldly, wealthy, tanned, good-looking everything that the grizzled, scowly Ante is not. The men were boys together, and during a boat ride where old secrets are revealed, it turns out that Javier had had a soft spot for Nela. Are those feelings going to be rekindled? Will Javier’s obvious affection for Julija in a rather handsy way make the two women vie for the attention of the same man?

The gorgeously shot film, named after the eel (murina, a local delicacy) that the father and daughter bring up from the ocean bed, is a wriggly, sensuous delight. Julija struggles to break free from the man who can’t bring himself to smile at her; and to cleave towards the man in whose dimpled smile she reads the promise of a new life, away from her small-town existence, to an exciting future.

Though some of the beats are borrowed from all coming-of-age films – the rebellion against set patterns, the railing against mum-and-dad-who-do-not-understand–‘Murina’ feels vital and fresh.

Coming of age is not restricted to callow youth alone. It can happen anytime you turn a corner, and the contours of your life start looking distinctly different. You know, from here on, that things will not be the same. When a middle-aged woman, who has worn solid sober colours all her life because her deceased husband liked her in them, gives in to the joys of floaty florals, you just know that things will never be the same for her.

This is one of the high points of Nanni Moretti’s engrossing, if conventionally told ‘Three Floors’. It is set in a handsome building in Rome, and presents us with a bunch of neighbours impacted deeply by a tragedy. A couple struggles to come to terms with the consequence of an accident caused by their drunk son. A younger couple go round in circles after their little daughter has a scary escapade with a grandfather-like figure who occasionally baby sat her: the husband cannot put his suspicions behind him, leading to an unsavoury entanglement with a pretty teenager. And a third couple, the wife who has just given birth, and the husband constantly away on work, come up against a problem that’s both intriguing and intractable.

The film takes five-year leaps twice over, and reunites us with the same characters, older but not necessarily wiser. The man who caused the accident has finished a prison term, and turned his back on his parents. The unwise affair between the underage girl and the man she had a childhood crush on, has resulted in a painful lawsuit. Through these twists and turns, in some places reminding you of explicatory TV dramas, the characters learn, as we have always known, that suspicion and guilt make bad companions, and only when you let go completely can you be free.

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