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Film Scatches: A Diagram of Agony and Joy – Waiting for Sevdah (2017)

Sevdeh1

Film Scratches focuses on the world of experimental and avant-garde film, especially as practiced by individual artists. It features a mixture of reviews, interviews, and essays.

A Review by David Finkelstein.

Waiting for Sevdah is a 41 minute poetic self-portrait by Saidin Salkic, a Bosnian filmmaker now based in Australia. The film begins with the image of a man (Salkic) washing red paint or blood from his hands. A quietly whispering voice recites a poem about “agony” and how it may be healed by “music.” To understand the film’s backstory, it is helpful to know that Salkic was born in Srebrenica, and was a young adolescent at the time of the wartime atrocities there.

The first half of the film is a slow-paced portrait of Salkic, seemingly the only inhabitant of the pleasant Melbourne suburb where he lives alone. Accordion music, repeated chords which sound somewhat like a car alarm, do indeed create a feeling of agony. Salkic, his heavy guyliner making him look like a silent movie star, spends an entire day and night alone, drinking coffee, staring at the empty streets, quite evidently engaged in “waiting.” If we see other people or cars, it is only fleetingly, near the edge of the frame.

sevdah2Midway through the film, we begin to hear a repeating chime, like a metal bowl struck by a spoon (very awkwardly edited from shorter sound clips). A little girl in a purple track suit (his daughter Sevdah) pedals down the street on her bike. She arrives, and everything changes. For the rest of the film, we see father and daughter playing together, blowing bubbles and rolling a hoop. We don’t get to see Salkic as a caregiver, nor any of the difficult parts of fatherhood, only his pleasure at sharing her games. (The girl herself is only sulkily playful.) We hear awful piano music, aimlessly and tunelessly wandering, completely at odds with the joyful mood of the images. This music (composed by Salkic) reveals the bewildered confusion of a player with no knowledge of either music or his instrument, and the music undermines the mood of the scene in a bizarre way.

What have we learned from this study in contrasted moods? Salkic loves his daughter. He feels depressed without her, relaxed and playful with her. His recovery from past suffering depends on her. These revelations feel meager, compared to the duration and slow pace of the film.

Waiting for Sevdah has the slow, meditative pace, the lyrical photography, and the poetic language of many “art films.” But the writing, the editing, the music, and the photography are all too crude to capture much poetry. The emotional shift referenced by the story is obviously real and heartfelt. Salkic tries to distill his emotions in order to create a poetic intensity, but the schematic way he renders them has the effect, instead, of flattening them. We’re left with a diagram of the emotions, rendered with clichés, rather than the real thing.

David Finkelstein is a filmmaker, musician, and critic. For more information on Film Scratches, or to submit an experimental film for review, contact david (at) lakeivan.org.

5 Comments for “Film Scatches: A Diagram of Agony and Joy – Waiting for Sevdah (2017)”

  1. it is really a true pleasure to receive this “critic”, from the endlessly invaded, discourse, from where it “criticizes”. It is also unsurprising to see the expectation for the same conventional victimized state on the other side of pain, expression and supremely unique experience, to be at all interested in the any form of established “beauty’. Also, it is sad that a person without the specific experience can watch it develop and judge it’s metaphysical influence on the human and the artist living it. This difference in empty space is naturally not achievable, for the banal and superficial, arrogant and a bit personally influenced (due to our email exchange, where I was in fact respectful ) say all these things about form, never speak of creation, avat-garde melody, rhythm, unexpected beauty, pure and uninfluenced by anything but instinct of a human whose instinct has been places. It is new beauty sir, but I think you never experienced , as you so compare it to, nor truly knew the old one..

    Love,

    Saidin

    http://www.innersense.com.au/mif/salkic.html

  2. It is also interesting to hear in this “writing” a voice of a truck driver whose musical education is misplaced people like
    Zappa, John Cage, Captain Beefheart, and whose wisdom on film reaches such heights with words like “cliche” and “the real thing”.

  3. David Finkelstein

    I have read your comments, and I take your thoughts about my review very seriously.

    If my review contains some speculations about your inner life and feelings, it is because you had written to me “there are no characters in my cinema, only my human state and my life.” A viewer watching the film, knowing that it is based on your life, has a tendency to imagine the feelings of the man and the girl in the film. My intention was to describe what I saw and felt in these scenes, and I did not mean to imply that my knowledge of you is based on anything other than what is in the film.

  4. Truck Driver 39

    I think the critic here has the right to express whatever they like and the review was written with respect. Stay independent, dont be bullied by people who dont like your opinion.

  5. “Love”, to quote myself from the first comment, still stands as my most important one. I was sad, that you refused to comment on the undeniable, unexpected magic. People in the corners of the frames are refusal of company, inability to have it. Music is sacred to me David, but everything is music, the one that was “agony” was important to describe the agony.I was so disturbed by your refusal to see the beauty, however unusual it is. I was hurt that you refused to acknowledge the immense intensity made by pure emptiness. You know that that is hardest to do…Sensationalism and intensity of emptiness, And I refuse to believe that that release at the end was something you can just dismiss as “cliche”. It was symbolism, attempt at pure, rather that attempt on a banal relationship, with frying eggs and the rest… It was an attempt at pure fatherhood, the poetry of parenthood…Thank you for writing…Love, Saidin

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