As a paradigmatic example and as the most adequate material for argumentation to prove our goals here, we chose the film that exposes, in its essence, the usual image about the Balkans, with such eagerness so that comes to its own auto-imagology deed.
From the aspect of the films scenario, in the fiction “Unclean Blood” by Borisav Stanković, we can sense the deep cultural basement of this deed: the cultural under-tissue of the Balkan model of the world, “the dark region” and the dark Balkan subject in it.
The opening scene and the opening credits represent the symbolic announcement of the essential problems around which this deed focuses: As first – the white horses and their free movement through the space (which connects with the primordial impulses, lusts and desires, and with the atavistic instincts) as symbols of purity, they are pure untamed and wild. As second – the main title “Unclean blood”, points to the besmearing which comes next, the disorder of that idyllic pagan order which is threaten by the new, social and cultural order. That’s the typical, semi-urban location “somewhere on the Balkans”, the essential thopos of the Balkan culture – the province.
Knowing about that image of the Balkans as the province of European civilization center, all what happens into the frames of this chronotop can be accept as metonym name for the provinciality, the very quintessence of Balkan suburb, the rethinking of the Balkan-as-a-Suburb.
Considering the actant scheme of the film, and in spite that there are a few characters (efendi Mita, master Marko, Sofka, Agim, Tomčo), in the basics, there remains and prevails the homology principal of characterization – underlined by the musical semiosis of the song “Zajdi, zajdi, jasno sonce” which represents the closing sequences or the frames of the deed – this principal, mutual to the existential drama of all the characters, brings down the paradigm of the wasted, alienated youth, the confusion of the identities, the feeling of a personal lost, the pain of the nostalgia and remembrance, and the comfort of the retrospective…
Not by chance, the constitutive element of the film procedure is no other but the dream poetics, the poetic of dreams, desire and wishes, which are (with their surreal charge and highly erotic potential) constructing the pagan symbolic palette and the magical fluid in which the characters are flowing, possessed by the meanings of the ancient rituals (the ritual Sofka’s bath, the sacrifice ritual at the wedding, the ritual imperative of the blood vengeance, the ritual of the brotherhood by blood, the ritual of the smoking of hashish, etc.).
In those rituals, everybody is anybody’s victim, at least once. So, the principal of the victimization
is raised to the level of the universal cultural pattern, in which the enchanted circle (– circulus virtuosis) exists: the eternal coming back and repeating of the same, undoubtedly confirms the tradition of the fatalism, the resignation and the defeatism. The imperative of the self-turning into the victim. Or, turning the victimizing into the destiny.
Efendi Mita, in spite of his nobility and his high social status, is a victim of his own vices and the illness of a will, and a victim of the new times, and the people (the newcomers) who come with it.
Master Marko is a victim also: a victim of his own exaltation, and his lack of scruples. He is the despised newcomer and the intruder from the mountains, whose lust for money and possessions grew that much, so he reaches in incest to his daughter in law. We can say that he reaches to his son’s life, youth and love, trying to steal back his irretrievably lost time of desire and pain.
Sofka is the key victim figure in this particular love rectangle – constituted of her father Mita, her father in law (second father and lover) Marko, her husband and at the same time the child Tomčo, and her lustful brother by blood Agim. We see her as multiplied victim – sparagmos, the pledge with which her father pays his vice-depths to Marko; then, we see her as a victim of his unpure lusts and desires for the beautiful, innocent and pure youth. Finally, we see her as a marital victim (the typical Balkans one) of her husband Tomčo, who denies and humiliates her as a wife and lover, but accepts her (using her services) as a home-keeper and as a maid. Sofka is a victim of the patriarchal cultural order – like her mother, her grandmother, her mother in law, and finally (in the allusive only, but transparent enough insinuations), like her daughter Sophia. They all, being women, are limited and brought to that narrow space of a home dwelling, today, maybe a little alleviated, called the pink ghetto (M. Valdez) – limited on the kitchen and the bedroom, those two rooms linked with the dark objects of desire. In the Balkan cultural context, Sofka is just a female, so – the mute object of the other’s (men’s) desires and needs, or the currency for them to level the scores with each other, and they are given the privilege to make a decisions for the Other (the women), and in the name of the Other.
But, besides the asymmetry of the actantial roles, and of the relations between the sexes, the Balkan culture posses another characteristic, maybe even more important, but yet – not researched enough: that’s the incestuality! – or more accurate, the incestuality of the second kind.
In contrary of the classic examples of incest, here it is indirect and implicit, and yet strong enough – judging by its consequences, by its “confusion of identities”, and its symbolical disturbance of family configurations.
The relation development between Sofka and her husband’s father is a pure example of the incest of a second kind, which, by the researches of the French theorist Fransoaz Eretier, can be even more harmful than the first kind, because here: “the substance and identity of the father reaches out for the substance and identity of the son (or the reverse), through the mediation of their mutual love-mate.”.
The transfer of those substances between the father and the son, besides the bio-physiological consequences, has also a great deal of significant symbolical and social ones, with quite a lot of implications: As first, disorder inside the family configuration; then, the personal identity exodus; and finally, the question of a rivalry (considering the fact that in the most of the cases, the solution of this problem brings the death to one of the rivals – says Nathalie Heinich).
Both in the novel and the film, named “Unclean blood” (so indicative), are, namely, insinuating of this incestual relations, of those contaminated personal limitations and identities, like the Totem (the father of the Kin) repossesses his Sons future… As Marko lives the Tomčo’s life – symbolically – by making love to his wife, and by making her a child, just like his father did once before…
The Tomčo’s behavior it’s quite indicative in this case: when he grows mature enough to understand and see all the changes and the implications of his father’s act, he doesn’t sense his own substance any more; he feels that he has lost the right to his own identity; so he, intentionally and self-destructively runs forth and back, from the war-fronts to the inn and reverse (the Inn – a metaphor of the Balkan escapism and defeatism). He lives the Nothing, the Non-existence, never reaching the capability of getting some intimate and firm existential axis.
But Sofka is the one who’s waiting, and waiting, like Frosina (the heroine of the first Macedonian film – author’s note) did, latently calling the incestual dialog from her childhood: “To whom you belong to? To Daddy. And, whose you gonna become? Nobody’s”. So, without any firm and calm standpoint in her life, Sofka lives her life between the somnambular revival of her former identity and the realistic come-back revival of her actual lack of one, in the manner of the endemic melancholy and resignation – so characteristic for the homo and femina Balcanica…
The cultural paradigm, so plastic and so recognizable presented in this film, stands as a witness of this so strong and durable Balkan “cult” symbols and the mentality which gets its support – maybe – from this exact incestuality we have under consideration now; then, in the allusions of the pagan symbols of fertility. Also, we can see that support in the mix and overflow of the Levantine and Oriental culture elements into the conflict grounds of the Balkan province, burdened by its own slowness, desire for the Other, and such…
If Alexander Bloc’s theory is accurate – that the culture is the one who “convicted us to make a choice” – then, in the author’s poetics of the director of this film Stojan Stojičić we can recognize more than one sub-conscience obsessive thought to repeat and overforce the fundamental cultural assumptions and patterns, known to the semiotic and the poetic of the contemporary Balkan film, who waits for more serious and wider researches of this type. And, this type of a research, amongst its analytic goals, will have for a goal to recognize and evaluate the imagology models of particular nations, regions and cultures, those one which through the art deeds are implementing and shaping the individual relations and thought-imaging of the people of that particular cultural region or national entity.
In the terms when the Balkans with its dispersing and divergent tendencies is disordering the process of the unification of European cultural and political area, and evidently getting the status of a cultural metaphor with a rich imagological connotations (mainly connected with its – namely – violent, deviant, frustrating and traumatic effect), the epistemology point of this type of research is to bring out the necessary revaluation of both – imagology and auto-imagology “mirages” produced by the culture and the art itself. Then, we can discover the Balkans as a privileged shelter of the dark, atavistic and ancient impulses…
Translated by: Petar Volnarovski