The Slovenia Times

A country that supplies bad guys



How does Hollywood perceive and comprehend Europe? In the same (distorted) manner as it sees the whole world: through (geographic) clich's, landmarks whose meaning and recognizability are paradoxically, created or at least consolidated by that same industry of dreams. The map of the old continent is reduced to a few well-known orientation points, which have a special role in classic Hollywood narratives. Not only do they locate the events they often reveal the genre and framework of the movie as well. As soon as we see the Colosseum, we unconditionally know we are in Rome, Italy and can guess that a romantic comedy is on the way. The same equation applies elsewhere: Eiffel tower = Paris = France. Ultimately, the number of such highly-visible international landmarks is limited: St. Peter's church, Big Ben, the Acropolis, Red Square and to a lesser extent the Brandenburg gate (Berlin wall), Prater's merry-go-round and the old Monte Carlo casino. Additionally, we could also throw in the windmill, a metaphorical icon of the Netherlands, and an idyllic pa norama of snowy mountain peaks representing the Alps. That is more or less everything average consumers of Hollywood movies can find out about Europe. For them, only London, Paris and Venice actually exist. Therefore, it is little wonder that crowds of (American) tourists roam there regardless of the season. Those with more sophisticated demands can of course take in Berlin (Wenders) or Amsterdam (Pulp Fiction). Well, there is also Moscow far away to the east and somehow still representing a threat. So then, where is Slovenia, a country without any obvious, recognizable icons? Where, if at all, could a Hollywood cinephile discover it? Why inside the 'imaginarium' of course - smack-dab somewhere to the east of Rome, west of Moscow, below the Alps and a bit over from Athens. The definitive trans-European crossroad. The Cross of Iron (1977) by the controversial Sam Peckinpah is perhaps the most notorious film ever shot at these coordinates. Slovenia (Portoroz's old Palace hotel & Otocec in the Dolenjska region) and central Istria represent the Ukraine's 'wild east' with a raging offensive by the Soviet Red Army against the retreating Germans. Ironically, in the Academy-award-winning No Man's Land by Danis Tanovic (2002), this placid Central-European country was again cast in the role of a bloody battlefield, this time a Bosnian battlefield at the beginning of nineties. But Slovenia has also exported other artefacts of war and - indirectly - won a couple of Oscars. Bistra's Technical Museum of Slovenia contributed a convoy of pre-WWII cars for Spielberg's Schindler's List (1993). The ex-socialistic industrial giant TAM (Maribor Truck factory) in one way or another equipped all the "enemy" armies of the world. In this case they were not 'old-timers', even though the famous TAM truck remained practically the same throughout its existence - always the same classical, olive-green TAM truck for Nazis and Commies. So it is no wonder that all of them went to the devil, along with the TAM factory. As they are rarely seen outside of a cinema nowadays, the TAM truck has taken on another, and probably its final, role - a role it fully deserves - as a revered piece of nostalgia. However, this truck is not the only artefact of note that film audiences are exposed to. The prestigious, fetish-like Elan skis, which took the Swedish hero Ingemar Stenmark to many victories on the white slopes, appeared in numerous films of different genres, from teenage comedies, Bavarian pornos, to science-fiction extravaganzas. The "Elanke" appeared in, amongst others, one of the Superman movies on top of a skyscraper, symbolically at the very top of the western world. They also belong in the standard inventory of James Bond's stalkers. Could this be the cause of the marketing failure of this once celebrated brand? Did they - as TAM did - bet on the wrong guys? Absolutely! Only baddies used these skis. Elan was beaten by its own media image despite winning where it should have counted - on the ski slopes. Slovenia is an Alpine country. More than that - it is a skiing country par excellence. Hollywood discovered that a while ago: in a television biography about Bill Johnson, the great downhill skier, the picturesque Skofja Loka was cast in the role of Kitzbuhel, the ski slope of ski slopes. So what do Slovenes do when they don't ski? They work, drink, argue and shoot films (not necessarily in that order). And they do it best when they masochistically portray the cruelty of war (Valley of Peace), the aberrations of the revolution (Farewell in the next war, Red boogie) or the idle meandering of transition (Bread and Milk). A couple of days after Jan Cvitkovic received his 'Lion of the future' award in Venice for his directing debut in "Bread and Milk", an aeroplane hit New York's World Trade Center - the ultimate global orientation point. After that event, the world (of film) can never be the same again. This August, Mostra in Venice again hosts the same young Slovene filmmaker. This time he is competing in the short film category with his latest work entitled "Heart is a chunk of meat". Be prepared.


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