Sad state of Croatian film industry in 1990s can be best illustrated by the way in which Croatian critics' establishment desperately tried to hail each new film as potential masterpiece and each new director as potential saviour of Croatian cinema. So, Lukas Nola was hailed as Croatian Quentin Tarantino and Goran Rušinović was hailed as Croatian Jim Jarmusch. The closest thing to the saviour of Croatian cinema proved to be Vinko Brešan with his How the War Began on My Island*, followed with series of directors with utterly disappointing films. One of them was Hrvoje Hribar, author of much lauded and seldom seen 1991 film Hrvatske katedrale. Six years later he tried his chances with comedy thriller Puška za uspavljivanje a.k.a. Rifle for Sleeping.
The plot, just like many films in those times, deals with 1990s wars and their aftermath on post-Communist Croatian society. Protagonist is Janko (played by Rene Medvesek), policeman who suffers from war-related insomnia and some wrong choices in private life. Engagement to the police chief's daughter and promising career within the force was discarded for the sake of Nana (played by Nina Violić), kleptomaniac hairdresser whom he later married. Now Janko's police work consists of standing every night in front of Russian Embassy. There he can't fail to notice Marta (played by Alma Prica), widow of the businessman involved in all kinds of shady deals. Marta is being hounded by Vlado (played by Vili Matula), one of her late husband's men obsessed with large inheritance. Janko decides to come to Marta's rescue, not knowing that he would embroil himself in more trouble than he could imagine.
Just like most Croatian films made in those times, Puška za uspavljivanje is made with relatively small budget. Hrvoje Hribar, unlike most of his colleagues, allows this small budget to reveal itself in technical quality of the film. Cinematography is too dark and quality of sound below usual standards. Because of this, foreign viewers would probably have less trouble comprehending the complicated plot because of subtitled dialogues, something denied to Croatian audience. What is evident in this film is quality of acting, especially in the case of Goran Višnjić (of ER fame) who truly excels in the small role of gun-totting psychotic. Unfortunately, most of talented actors also have to deal with some uninspired lines of dialogue. Although a notch or two better than most of 1990s Croatian film atrocities, Puška za uspavljivanje represents the path Croatian cinema industry should never take.
RATING: 3/10 (+)
(Note: The text in its original form was posted in Usenet newsgroup rec.arts.films.reviews on March 15th 2004)
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