Prokletinja (The Damned Thing). 1975. Yugoslavia. Directed by Branko Plesa. Screenplay by Plesa, based on the story by Ambrose Bierce. With Rade Markovic, Nikola Simic, Vasja Stankovic, Plesa. In Serbo-Croatian; English subtitles. 57 min.
Yugoslavian filmmaker Branko Plesa’s attempt to evoke the American Midwest after the Civil War—its costumes and manners but also its hardscrabble frontier sensibility—only deepens the strangeness of this Ambrose Bierce adaptation, a supernatural tale from 1893 involving a murderous creature imperceptible and unknowable to humans.
Izbavitelj (The Rat Savior). 1976. Yugoslavia. Directed by Krsto Papić. Screenplay by Ivo Bresan, Papic, Zoran Tadic, based on the novel by Alexander Grin. With Ivica Vidovic, Mirjana Majurec, Relja Basic. In Serbo-Croatian; English subtitles. 80 min.
The Russian author Alexander Grin died in 1932 of poverty and hunger, but his writing—romantic, tragic fables unmoored from reality—lives on in the work of Andrei Tarkovsky, Otar Iosseliani, and Kristo Papić, the Croatian Black Wave filmmaker who adapted Grin’s The Rat Savior in 1976. A twisted and absurdist variant of the Pied Piper legend, the film centers on an impoverished writer who discovers an underground society of rat people who dine on champagne, roast pig, and the suffering of the workers. Made after the forceful suppression of the Croatian Spring independence movement (in which Papić took part), The Rat Savior is perhaps best understood as an allegory about totalitarianism in its various forms.
35mm print courtesy of the Slovenian Cinematheque