Requiem for Mrs J

****

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Requiem For Mrs J
"Comedy doesn't come in many darker shades than that employed by Serbian director Bojan Vuletic in Requiem For Mrs J, this is truly the vantablack of humour."

Comedy doesn't come in many darker shades than that employed by Serbian director Bojan Vuletic in Requiem For Mrs J, this is truly the vantablack of humour. Mrs J (Mirjana Karanovic, who deservedly took home a career achievement accolade at The Golden Arch awards last month) just wants to die but finds herself caught in a Kafkaesque struggle with bureaucracy instead.

Depressed since the death of her husband a year earlier, life is grim in the cramped flat she shares with her two daughters - one pre-teen, potty-mouthed, the other, Ana (Jovana Gavrilovic) frustrated by her mother's ability to sit in a sea of sorrow all day while she tries to keep the household afloat - and her mother, who drifts silently in and out of the kitchen like a ghost of a punchline. If that sounds like yet another slice of washed-out eastern European miserabalism, Vuletic asks us to think again, as spiky bits of absurdity and colour begin to poke through the cracks.

Copy picture

Getting hold of a gun to celebrate the anniversary of her husband's death with her own suicide is a cakewalk compared to everything else Mrs J faces, the irony being that she has to go through so many motions in terms of attempting to get her severance pay, check on her life insurance and alter her husband's gravestone that she begins to feel almost alive. If Vuletic keeps us on our toes in terms of content, straddling the divide between deadpan and despair, he is also inventive in terms of framing. Sometimes, cinematographer Jelena Stankovic's camera pulls back suddenly, as though suddenly putting Mrs J in a horror film, mirroring her mental state. There's also repeated use of symmetry.

The Serbian government proves a broad target for Vuletic's satire, but he also makes sure to celebrate the stoicism, however misguided, of the country's people. The factory where Mrs J once worked may have been reduced to an empty, eerie shell, but there are still a couple of employees beavering away, some unionists prepared to take a stand, albeit an absurdist one, over pay - even the abandoned car she seems drawn to outside her flat block seems to have brightened up a bit. Somehow, from the wreckage and clutter, a different picture begins to emerge, of warmth and family and possibilities that don't have to end with a bullet.

Reviewed on: 07 May 2018
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Jelena wants to end her life and she’s only got a week to sort things out... a situation that proves difficult.

Festivals:

BIFF 2017
Karlovy 2017

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