November 20th, 2013

Slovenia: Scene from the film Vesna

What is there to celebrate on the sixtieth anniversary of the premiere of the film Vesna? Many things. The first Slovene film comedy for example. Perhaps also Slovenia’s first real hit film. The debut of Slovenia’s first homegrown film stars. Or the first Slovene film by Czech director František Čáp, at that time still “temporarily” based in Slovenia. Vesna was also the first film, in the politicised climate of gloomy post-war Slovenia, to deliberately turn away from revolutionary politics and dedicate itself to a gentle reverie about young love. This provoked the ire of many, including some Slovene film-makers, film critics and “socio-political workers”, for several reasons: Čáp was a foreigner and was therefore accused of taking work away from Slovene film-makers.

Critics complained that there was nothing Slovene about Vesna, and that it could have been set anywhere in central Europe.Moreover the film did not show even the slightest trace of the problems then faced by Slovenia in the context of post-war Yugoslavia. Not only that but Vesna was dangerously reminiscent of a Hollywood production. It is true that Vesna was a kind of cinematic equivalent of Cockta, Yugoslavia’s version of Coca-Cola. Despite the criticisms, František Čáp fell in love with Slovenia and chose to remain in the country.

Over the course of 10 years he made 11 films, some Slovene and others co-productions. He dedicated the last 10 years of his life, until his death in 1972, to raising chickens. Enforced critical and political conformity is (was), of course, not only a Slovene phenomenon, and it is interesting that Čáp was actually the first to show in a film - Moments of Decision (1955) - how to overcome this enforced conformity. Not only that, in this film he even hinted at a way to overcome a Slovene trauma that is still unresolved today: the split between Partisans and the Home Guard. Be that as it may, Vesna represented a turning point and cinemagoers loved it.

The stamp was designed by Matjaž Učakar, designer from Ljubljana.

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