(The Awakening of the Rats; The Rats Wake Up)
Director: Zivojin Pavlovic
Production: Filmska Radna Zajednica; running time: 86 minutes.
Screenplay: Gordan Mihic and Ljubisa Kozomara; photography: Milorad Jaksic-Fandjo; editor: Olga Skrigin; music: Natko Devcica.
Cast: Slobodan Perovic; Dusica Zegarac; Severin Bijelic; Nikola Milic; Snezana Lukic; Pavle Vujisic.
Variety (New York), 12 July 1967.
Combs, Richard, Films and Filming (London), September 1969.
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That the 1960s were a time for re-evaluation in Yugoslavia was apparent on a national level as an even more decentralized constitution was put into effect in 1963. This coincided in the cinema with a spirit of exploration, evaluation and more liberal expression that became known as New Film and later the Black Film movement.
Born in 1933, Zivojin (Zika) Pavlovic, a graduate of the Academy of Applied Arts in Belgrade, was perhaps the bleakest proponent of the Black Film wave. The bleakness of Pavlovic's vision is, however, tempered with his non-sentimental sympathy for his protagonists, who remain humane in spite of adversity. His use of ironic black humour and his carefree construction of scenes allows the viewer to perceive a complicated inner reality beyond the surface realism. He has championed manipulation of the film medium as part of his message. Yet Pavlovic tells a straightforward story in the simplest of styles.
Pavlovic is equally respected as an author, filmmaker, and professor of film direction. In his fiction writing and ten feature films to date, he has unswervingly held to an austere and brutal naturalism captured in a lean prose style and an equally non-obtrusive camera and editing style. His territory is the margin of society and his protagonists are basically simple people, good people who are overcome and betrayed by their environments. In The Awakening of the Rats the lover of the film's luckless male protagonist, Bamberg, tells him "I've always wanted a decent life, but one slip and it all goes to hell," just before she takes all of his borrowed money and skips town. With a script by two of Yugoslavia's best-known screenwriters and journalists, Gordan Mihíc and Ljubisa Kozomara, the film is shot as many of his early films are in darkly shadowed black and white, appropriately matching Pavlovic's dim view of human relations. The set in The Awakening of the Rats examines the bleak slums of the city. An equivocal and realistic record of poverty in former Yugoslavia, the film is a classic.