Review: Sparks (2020)

Courtesy of Beldocs

The title of Vladimir Perović’s short, dialogue-free documentary comes from the sparks ignited by a fire striker, an ancient practice brought back to life by a solitary farmer whose silence is as monumental as the nature around him. This practice isn’t the only thing coming from the past. The man is using the plough drawn by horses to turn the soil, he’s moving grass with a scythe and bucketing water for his cows out of a well. Epic as the wilderness he calls his home, the man embodies the image of one of the last true highlanders, unshaken by the modernity. Or is that truly the case?

Bothered he is, when all of the sudden his peace and quiet gets disrupted by the noisy machines that appear one day to bring electricity to the mountain. The drilling breaks through the otherwise silent region, threatening and foreign. The man stops to gaze at the steel monsters, movable and static alike with a smirk on his face. The cows don’t seem to appreciate the changes either. All the racket makes them restless, and the new metal giant sticking out of the ground feels very wrong. While watching the monstruous construction, Drago is clenching a sharp tool, looking like an angry chieftain declaring war to his arch enemy.

Electricity arrives in the area, and Drago’s house needs much more than that, according to the modern understanding of households. The house needs a handfull of repairs, starting with windows and roof, but all of it doesn’t seem to be the highlander’s priority. Animals get hunted and skinned, and we have a glimpse at their furs being hung and dried in the late summer sun. An animal skull adorns the house facade, strangely placed below one of the windows, without any logic or sense for aesthetics. It just exists. It’s up to us to give it a story. Was it sacrificed at the altar of winter time, its skin and fur serving their warming purpose, or was is just a meal?

Given no explanations, just strong images and the great work in the sound department, Sparks is a witness of modernity conquering the remaining patches of wilderness where traditional agricultural practices still exist.

Sparks was shot from 2016-2019 in Ožegovice, Čevo, South-West of Montenegro, following Drago Vujović on his daily routines. Visibly not whole-heartedly involved in the film or camera that follows him, he looks like he’s tolerating but not fully accepting the situation. His stiffness has a way of showing that the “guests” are overstaying.

We caught up with Vladimir Perović’s short documentary at Beldocs.

Country: Montenegro
No dialogues
Year: 2020
Runtime: 21 minutes
Original title: Ognjilo
Written & directed by: Vladimir Perović
Production director: Neven Staničić
Producer: Vladimir Perović
Executive Producer: jelena Božović
Cinematography: Milan Stanić & Ivan Čojbašić
Sound Design: Dora Filipović
Editor: Aleksandar Uhrin
Colour correction: Dušan Vuleković