Thursday, March 7, 2013

Love Affair, or the Case of the Missing Switchboard Operator

That´s ¨Ljubavni slucaj ili tragedija sluzbenice P.T.T.¨ in Serbo-Croatian, the original title of Dusan Makavejev´s 1967 film. It has the honour, among the films I´ve been looking at, of being both the film with longest title, and at one hour and seven minutes, the shortest running length. Perhaps this in itself gives us an idea of something that has been lost since the time when the film was made. A time when the makers of this film were not afraid to release something closer in length to a weekly installment of a television series under a title that´s not quite instantly memorable. A time of risk-taking and experimentation.

Love Affair is an example of Yugoslavia´s ¨Black Wave¨ movement of film-making. There are other examples of this style, and all share similar Anarchist or Maoist sensibilities, borrowing from the French New Wave while offering quite explicit criticism of Yugoslavian society. Yugoslavia is unique in Eastern Europe for not having been occupied by the Soviet Union, and maintaining its independence under a socialist regime.

Dusan Makaveyev is famous for his ¨WR: Mysteries of the Organism¨ of 1971. This was made in Yugoslavia, and like many other black wave films was promptly banned there, and many other nations, besides. He went to Canada to make ¨Sweet Movie¨ which was also banned in Yugoslavia, but also Canada, and most other nations. Love Affair was not banned in Yugoslavia, and was shown with only modest cuts in the West.

During this period, Makaveyev was essentially working and reworking the same material in each of his films. Like the other films of his I´ve mentioned, though much less explicitly so, Love Affair is a playfully didactic exposition of the thinking of the German psychoanalyst and communist Wilhelm Reich - the WR of his most famous picture. Reich believed that sexual repression led to tyranny and fascism, and to avoid this fate we had to fully and fearlessly express our sexuality. For his troubles, Reich was expelled from Freud´s inner circle, the communist party and Norway. After a brief stint teaching at the New School in New York with other Jewish emigres, he attracted the attention of the FBI, was fired and died in 1957 while in custody at a federal prison in Pennsylvania, but not before the FDA had burned all his books and papers.

Eva and her other rat catcher 

Love Affair is a tragic love story intertwined with a pastiche of flash forwards, expert lectures on sexuality, criminology and pest control, propaganda broadcasts of anti clerical campaigns and street demonstrations, and poetry. It maintains a light, comical tone throughout, though some of the scenes can be rather gruesome. Eva is a modern girl who works at a switchboard and Ahmed, a rat catcher, is her older, more conservative, lover. They are both good people, and they both love each other. But what chance does love stand in a world where Wilhelm Reich dies in an American prison after fleeing the Nazis?

Love Affair is available for download at the Pirate Bay. It comes packaged together with several other titles of his from the same period. All you need is a bittorrent client.

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