Damir (Adnan Omerovic) works as a security guard in a Sarajevo housing complex with industrial green and yellow walls. He has a skinny, simian look about him, coupled with a British invasion haircut—think a Slavic Gareth from The Office (UK). He scribbles puzzles and ciphers and spider webs on the glass of his graffiti-ridden security booth when he’s bored, which is all day long, and he smokes to excess. Into his small, enclosed world comes Tasya (Susanna Cappellaro) in a soft coat, pulling a rolling suitcase behind her, her black hair curling coquettishly under her chin—think a Slavic Penelope Cruz. She makes some excuse about her friend not being around and asks if she can stay with Damir, as one wouldn’t. Damir lives in the same building where he works, which Tasya finds amusing. He goes up to the roof to smoke, and down to his booth to work, and has recurring nightmares of a magician’s assistant in a ruffled tutu and an octopus writhing in a bathtub (separate visions). Tasya does even less, but relentlessly subsumes his existence. She gets sick, Damir gets sick, their lives slowly intertwine. Emma Rozanski’s Papagajka (which translates as The Parrot; the film is mostly spoken in English) is bookended by scenes of surreal beauty—patchworks of pastel contrasted with straight lines and hard edges—and punctuated by a percussive score that echoes through this empty building, these empty lives. Snow falls, steam rises, the project drips with an uneasy atmosphere. While integral to the mood, the film’s pacing might be a challenge for some; Rozanski was mentored by the legendary Hungarian director Bela Tarr and he has been known to deliver an eight-minute take of cows trudging through the mud (see: Satantango, all seven-and-a-half hours of it). In Papagajka, Rozanski questions the value of identity, asking whether a life so insignificant can simply be erased. It’s a small yet satisfying psychological drama from this promising young filmmaker, an artistic endeavor that hints at bigger and better things to come.
(c) 2016 David N. Butterworth