Review: Storkman (2020)

courtesy of Liburnia Film Festival

Sometimes the taste of film professionals (critics, filmmakers, festival directors and others) assembled in a jury of a film festival differs greatly than the taste of the audience, which is the reason why the Audience Award exists. Simply put, the films that could be labelled as crowd pleasers start with a considerable advantage against those “important”, but unpleasant and those brilliantly done, but a bit hermetical. And what is more pleasing than a story of the animal love that stands in the centre of this year’s audience favourite at Liburnia Film Festival, Storkman directed by Tomislav Jelinčić.

First we meet our human protagonist, an ageing widower named Stjepan whose hobby is saving the wounded birds. Then we meet his “pet” stork that he saved during the 90s war: she was shot by the hunters and remained unable to fly, so he took her in. Since then, she has earned a bit of a celebrity status on the national and even international level as the part of the couple. Her name is Malena, and her partner Klepetan flies every spring from Africa to spend the summer with her before flying back in the autumn. Storks mate with one partner for life, which might stand in the roots of the folklore beliefs about them, children and fertility.

As a protagonist, Stjepan is good enough, he is talkative and it is not hard to sympathize with him and his noble cause since he radiates the energy of a good person. And storks like storks, they are big, elegant and beautiful birds, their love stories are romantic and endearing. For everything else, there is a bit of cinema magic with some symbolism added on…

The trouble with the magic and the symbolism that, in the case of Jelinčić’s film, it is a bit overdone, which especially comes to mind whenever Luca Ciut’s music is played. Simply put, apart from being “sugary” (nothing wrong with that in case of sappy romances), it is too loud and overbearing, while varying the instruments the main theme is played on does not vary the theme itself. Finally, it is so open in dictating how the audience should feel every single moment that it sometimes hurts. Other than that, one particular shot of the rainbow when the topic of death is mentioned comes dangerously close to cringeworthy.

Apart from that, the film is nicely shot by Alan Stanković in the way to utilize the locations of the town of Slavonski Brod and its surroundings (the aerial drone shots are quite attractive), but Ivan Gergolet’s editing could be more decisive, since Storkman leaves the impression of repetitiveness and stretching the material that is suitable for a short or mid-length format to an almost 90 minutes feature format. The television background of its director and some of the producers and production companies can be also read from the pre-programmed cuts for the TV breaks.

But, hey, not many things can beat the stork love in cuteness. And cuteness is a huge factor when it comes to audience awards.

Original title: Starac i roda, priča o Malenoj i Klepetanu
Year: 2020
Runtime: 76’
Countries: Croatia, Slovenia, Italy
Language: Croatian
Directed by: Tomislav Jelinčić
Written by: Tomislav Jelinčić
Cinematography by: Alan Stanković
Editing by: Ivan Gergolet
Music by: Luca Ciut
Sound recording by: Marko Cindrić, Ivan Črepić
Colourist: Jure Černec
Produced by: Maja Pek-Brünjes, Danijel Pek, Miha Černec, Igor Prinčić
Production companies: Antitalent, Tramal Films, Transmedia Production, Radio Television of Slovenia, Croatian Radio Television (HRT)
Supported by: Croatian Audiovisual Centre (HAVC), MiBACT