The literary rule of the Russian writer Anton Pavlovich Chekhov has long been known that if we see a gun in the first act, someone will surely fire it in the last act. The rules of Chekhov’s gun were partially followed by another Croatian feature film debutant, Josip Žuvan, because in the second part of the film, someone will actually fire the gun that 12-year-olds Nikola and Antonio found at the very beginning. The first ones are neighbors in a small town somewhere in the hinterland of Split and they spend their winter holidays in the typical way that young people used to spend their holidays, shooting with a karabi or garbur after which the film premiered at the festival in San Sebastian got its name.
So even though Nikola and Antonio are inseparable, their families are not happy about it because Nikola’s grandmother and Antonio’s grandfather have apparently been in some sort of feud for years. While the boys record their actions with the carabiner on their cell phones and upload them to YouTube, hoping that they too will become Internet sensations, the quarrel between the families will slowly but surely escalate. “Garbura” reminded me a little of the exceptional Icelandic film “Under the Tree” from a few years ago, a brilliant black comedy in which two neighboring families decided to push out a completely pointless quarrel and intolerance to the end.
That’s why I’m even a little sorry that the author decided to pull the handbrake here in the second half of the film, because at one point it seemed to me that “Garbura” could also develop into something completely crazy and wacky. Nevertheless, Žuvan decided to stick to the classic Mediterranean drama, with occasional humorous elements, and despite the fact that it seems that he somehow went to safety in the end, “Garbura” is more than a quality film. It is a local, yet universal story that is being patiently and carefully built, and slowly we get an insight into the relationships between the members of these two families and understand where this intolerance actually comes from.
Everything will change there when Nikola and Antonio see something they were not supposed to see, and Žuvan brings a great portrayal of these eternally dissatisfied little souls, bitter and dissatisfied with their lives. Nikola’s grandmother and father and mother and Antonio’s grandfather and mother transfer that dissatisfaction, frustration and resentment to them, and the 12-year-olds realize that a lot of things are not right in their families. Although I have been traumatized by child actors in domestic films since I watched the first episode of Vrdoljak’s General in which one of his grandsons plays little Gotovina, the kids Žuvan hired are up to the task. The rest of the cast is also good, including Marija Škaričić, Ivana Roščić, Zdenko Jelčić, Ljubomir Bandović and Asja Jovanović, and “Garbura” is another confirmation that quality films have been made in Croatia in recent years.