Martin Scorsese Presents one girl’s deep dive for Independence along the Adriatic coast.
DIRECTED BY ANTONETA ALAMAT KUSIJANOVIĆ/CROATIAN, SPANISH/2022 (U.S. Theatrical Release)
BLU-RAY STREET DATE: SEPTEMBER 20, 2022/KINO LORBER
In a tropical paradise where the water is forever blue and the rock faces seem to really have faces, someone’s still got to do the work. Welcome to Julija’s world on and around a remote island along the Adriatic coast in the tense Croatian language drama, Murina.
Although the beautiful scenery and frequent deep-diving excursions are amazing, for this isolated teenage girl, they’re simply part of her prison. Keeping house, hosing down outside chairs, et cetra. All the local natural marvels are selling points for tourists (and, let’s be honest, for this movie) and the party-hardy crowd she regularly observes. They are not her people, and never will be. They are merely a fragment of the imagined larger world that’s constantly dangled before her like a carrot.
Gracija Filipović, the actress and competitive swimmer who plays Julija, delivers her character’s natural curiosity to “break free” with perfectly sad subtly. Filipović’s had some practice, as she also starred as a different character named Julija in director Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović’s similarly aquatic 2017 short film, Into the Blue. Filipović is a refreshingly unusual presence on screen- the camera truly loves her, though her looks are not at all that of a contemporary young movie star. As Julija, her white one-piece bathing suit is like a second skin, and in a simply natural sense, she’s quite comfortable in her skin. For the adult authorities in her life, she’s entirely too comfortable. Both her father and mother refer to her as “naked” when she’s going about her day working for them in the sun.
On a routine dive with her father, Ante (Leon Lucev, ever seething), Julija’s white swimsuit is punctured a toothy muraena eel. This incident bears enough metaphoric importance to be the poster image for Murina’s theatrical release. Julija’s father is an unhappy man who radiates his tensions towards everyone and everything around him. When a wealthy and successful acquaintance from his past, Javier (Cliff Curtis) arrives for a visit, much of his frustrations with his own stagnation boil up. For Julija, Javier brings hopes of a prestigious Yale education and a bright future, far away. Instead, she finds herself increasingly isolated, literally and figuratively. Her change to a nice new reflective blue swimsuit is merely emblematic of her hopes. In the meantime, Javier’s passive aggressive sparing with Ante and his carrying on with Julija’s mother, Nela (Danica Curcic), makes for a particularly tense atmosphere amid the serene world.
The aging Nela, all the while, is clinging to her past reputation of being the resident “island beauty”. Julija has zero interest in such things. In fact, the hyper focus on the specifics of island life by those closest to her is what she comes to resent. While Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets may not spring to mind as an immediate comparison, both films, in their own ways, are about young characters trying to reconcile their lives with their home environment. Aspirations of “getting out” have an impossibly about them. The Scorsese comparison is more apt than some may realize, as the iconoclast filmmaker is one of Murina’s executive producers.
Following a limited theatrical run last year, Kino Lorber has brought Munina to Blu-ray in fine form. The work of legendary cinematographer Helene Louvart transfers with great satisfaction to high definition making for an honestly spellbinding watch. Both of the Blu-ray’s notable bonus features are sourced from a recent screening event at the Metrograph in New York. There is a very brief live intro by the director, who returns for a post-screening Q&A session with Vox film critic Alissa Wilkinson. Wilkinson does a fine job of navigating the discussion in the face of language barriers, having to balance a microphone and her written questions while seated on a stool, and abrasively bright stage lights. Although Kusijanović doesn’t have much feature filmmaking experience under her belt just yet, there was still plenty to talk about following the screening. The aforementioned apparent similarities between Kusijanović’s short film Into the Blue would appear to make it an obvious bonus for this disc, but alas, it’s absent.
For first-time feature director Kusijanović, Murina has yielded a treasure trove of film festival awards, from Cannes to the Director’s Guild. All is entirely well earned, as Murina ignites a bright future for her in a larger world. Kino Lorber has likewise done a majestic job of bringing all its deep blue to Blu-ray.