Kusturica's children: the bubble that bursts history

Eleftheriotis, D. (2019) Kusturica's children: the bubble that bursts history. In: Lury, K. (ed.) The Child in Cinema. Palgrave Macmillan. (Accepted for Publication)

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Abstract

Kusturica’s ‘ex-Yugoslavian phase’ challenges any black and white binary accounts of the now extinct state’s history. His films are set in a clear historical contexts but one that cannot be defined as either ever-improving socialist paradise or totalitarian communist hell. They expose the naivety and reductiveness of both official, state-sanctioned versions of Yugoslavian history and Western Cold War aphorisms by constructing rich and chaotic narratives of everyday life. In Kusturica’s films communities, often extensive families, are effectively employed as mediating structures between the forces and processes of History and the complex, infinite universe of individual lives, anxieties and desires. Children, adolescents and young adults occupy a prominent position in Do You Remember Dolly Belle? (1981), When Father Was Away On Business (1985) and Time of the Gypsies (1989) and ‘bubbles of childhood’ are in effect constructed through the dramaturgic and representational practices of the films. However, these bubbles, despite their peculiarities and to some extent ‘otherness’, are not protected, sterile or isolated from the broad historical processes that surround them. Neither do they only function as sentimental representational shorthand for the harshness and oppression of the political situation. Instead they are involved in a dynamic relationship with historical reality by asserting their existence in the micro-histories that run parallel and interrogate such reality. The personal narratives of Kusturica’s children are also stories of personal change and development and construct a type of agency and subjectivity that in its stark contrast with the anonymous subjects of the grand socialist meta-narratives gains a critical edge that explodes their legitimacy and historical accuracy. The ‘bubble of childhood’ in Kusturica’s films plays a key (if rarely acknowledged role) in the critical reception and political evaluation of his work. The accusation of ‘Yugo-nostalgia’ levelled at him (which he mischievously accepts) is perhaps an expression of the sentimental investment in childhood that his films can in a certain reductive manner evoke – this is then conflated as an expression of nostalgia for the political regime. On the other hand, Kusturica himself delves in mischief and chaos which he often describes as ‘childlike’ – that refers not only to the chaotic planes of shot composition, movement of and in the frame and overall mise-en-scene but also to the messing up of historical narratives and orders.

Item Type:Book Sections
Additional Information:7,200 words chapter in anthology
Status:Accepted for Publication
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Eleftheriotis, Professor Dimitris
Authors: Eleftheriotis, D.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Culture and Creative Arts > Theatre Film and TV Studies
Publisher:Palgrave Macmillan
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