Friday, 23 December 2011

#16 Christmas Special: Macedonia — Goodbye, 20th Century!

Why I chose this: I was originally planning on reviewing the 1994 war drama Before the Rain for Macedonia. When I was pointed towards a film which the press release describes as "a film about the merry Santa Claus who in rage destroys our world", I changed my mind instantly.

I went into Goodbye, 20th Century! expecting a camp B-movie about Santa Claus going on a killing spree. What I got was one of the most energetic, inventive, bizarre and visually impressive films I've seen.

The action is split into two main parts with a brief interlude. The first is set in a post-apocalyptic 2019. It is implied that man had been judged unworthy to live on the Earth and something similar to the Flood in the book of Genesis accrued. This section follows Guzman, a man who is sentenced to death for fornicating with a saint. At his execution, he discovers his immortality and embarks on a journey do discover how he can finally die for his sins.

In part two, Santa Claus returns from work to his rented flat on New Year's Eve, 1999, where a wake is taking place. They exchange ideas about what will happen when the new century begins, such as all human decency being eradicated or that the world will begin a new era where nothing is the same. Santa gets increasingly distressed about the state of human kind as the night goes on and decides to do something about it as the century turns.

Whilst some plot points are quite incomprehensible, the film is a whirlwind of visual flair and creative ideas. The cinematography is at once flowing and angular; dutch shots are used extensively but transitions are smooth. This strengthens the bizarre imagery of the religious execution at the beginning and the unexplained operatic performance in abandoned ruins. The editing is erratic, but never jarring and adds to the madness inherent in every other facet of the film.

The film's tone fluctuates wildly between humorous, sadistic and generally weird in a similar way to the films of Emir Kustrurica and Alejandro Jodorowsky (incidentally, Lazar Ristovski who plays Santa Claus also features in Kusturica's Underground). This lends an energetic intensity to proceedings and throws raw emotions out at the viewer regularly.

A hypnotic quality is maintained throughout by the combination of the mentioned techniques and the fantastic music. When applied to the first section it invokes Jodorowsky's El Topo, but makes the latter part more Lynchian in nature.

Some may find the incoherence of the narrative off-putting, but those well versed in visually evocative and abstract cinema should make it their mission to watch this film.

Also recommended from Macedonia:
Before the Rain

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