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DVD: Great Water, The / Golemata voda (2004)
Review Rating:   Very Good  
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1 (NTSC)

November 22 , 2005



Genre: Drama  
A tale of a mystical friendship & obsession between two boys, trapped in an orphanage in post-WWII Stalinist Yugoslavia.  



Directed by:

Ivo Trajkov
Screenplay by: Ivo Trajkov, Vladimir Blazevski
Music by: Kiril Dzajkovski
Produced by: Mile Arsovski, Vladimir Chrenovsky, Robert Jazadziski, Suki Medencevic, and Ivo Trajkov

Saso Kekenovski, Maja Stankovska, Mitko Apostolovski, Verica Nedeska, Risto Gogovski, Nikolina Kujaca, Meto Jovanovski, Aleksandar Ribak, Vladimir Svetiev, and Rade Serbedzija (English narration)

Film Length: 93 mins Process/Ratio: 2.35:1
Colour Anamorphic DVD: Yes
Languages:  Dolby 5.1 and 2.0 Stereo Mixes (with original Macedonian dialogue with English or Macedonian Narration passages / English Subtitles with/without optional Narration, French Subtitles
Special Features :  

Audio Commentary by Co-Producer/Cinematographer Suki Medencevic / Interview with Director Ivo Trajkov in Prague (4:31) / Photo Gallery (24) / Theatrical Trailer / Bonus Audio CD

Comments :

The Great Water was Macedonia 's official entry for the Best Foreign Film Oscar category, and although the film ultimately didn't make it to the final ballot that year, the DVD from Picture This! is one of those rare instances where a lauded foreign film is given a timely international video release after its native theatrical run.

As he explains in the interview featurette on the DVD (via an English language overdub), co-writer/co-producer/director Ivo Trajkov spent three years trying to write a script that was faithful to the characters, themes, and florid prose of Zhivko Chingo's best-selling novel; it took four writers (two of them uncredited) to help shape the screenplay into a tight narrative, which, like the novel, had to be as sharply critical of Yugoslavia's Stalinist regime.

It's a huge cultural and political backstory that most western viewers won't know, and the DVD's greatest flaw lies in delivering inadequate historical facts about that post-WWII era, and the repercussions of Tito's plan to homogenize interconnected cultures into one Soviet nation. The enlistment of a historian for a secondary commentary track would have boosted the DVD's educational content, but in spite of the informational shortfalls, there's still a decent body of material that pops up in the DVD's commentary track.

Suki Medencevic answers some needed historical questions, and while increasingly longer gaps of silence start to plague the track's flow in the final third, Medencevic nevertheless provides a decent and personal account of the story's central locale: a concentration-like military complex, where the orphaned children of the enemies of the state are indoctrinated into Communist philosophy, with loyalties re-aligned towards the virtues of Stalin, and the new Yugoslavian nation.

Medencevic offers some excellent production anecdotes - working with a huge cast of children, and the film's special cast of first-time actors and esteemed Macedonian stage pros - and the creation of the military complex via disparate locations; he spends a bit too much time on the visual technicalities, but then the film's photography is truly stunning.

The DVD's transfer is first-rate, and comes with a genuinely odd selection of audio mixes: both Dolby 2.0 and 5.1 tracks feature the original Macedonian dialogue, but there's also optional versions with English narration by the inimitable Rade Serbedzija (the charismatic Russian villain in The Saint ). The commentary track is actually buried in the Audio Menu table - itself organized as a side option in the DVD's Setup menu for the multiple subtitle tracks. (Like the audio mixes, the DVD also offers English subs that translate the whole film (captioning the English narration as well), or they can be setup to accompany just the Macedonian dialogue.)

One aspect that becomes clear is the film's uniqueness in beating the odds and being one of a rare handful of films produced in Macedonia. Medencevic further explains how the resources of several countries were pooled to produce the film, and the use of five countries were vital in not only fulfilling the film's post-production needs, but authoring a first-rate DVD.

This release also comes with a bonus CD of Kiril Dzajkovski's superb score, with over 35 min. of original underscore and source cues.

A highly recommended release.

© 2006 Mark R. Hasan

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