God Exists, Her Name Is Petrunya
Well-behaved women seldom make history, and Petrunya is no exception. Teona Strugar Mitevska captures a day of Macedonian life drenched in the patriarchy, tradition and outdated codes of conduct in her fierce film God Exists, Her Name is Petrunya. The director elucidates the simple fact that if you probe at society’s ostensibly solid foundations it begins to crumble away. The day the filmmaker chooses to examine coincides with a specific Macedonian tradition during the Epiphany in which a holy crucifix is flung by an Orthodox priest into the icy sea and zealots race after it. Catching the cross entitles its owner to a year of good fortune; the stakes are high.
The feature’s eponymous heroine is weaving her way home after yet another unsuccessful job interview (there’s no place for a 32-year-old history graduate with no work experience in Macedonia) when she stumbles upon the ceremony. She impulsively dives into the water and retrieves the prize. It’s an egregious act; women cannot participate in the ceremony. However, is it illegal? She has broken an unwritten rule, not a law. Nonetheless, Petrunya creates a local scandal and is taken into police custody. First the station officers, then the priest, then an angry mob of men, attempt to seize the cross from her.
The film has a contained timeline, set within 24 hours, but is also confined to a few settings. Its snapshot-like quality strengthens the significance of the movie and makes it clear that if we stick to tradition even on the small-scale, we will never progress. There is a blend of precisely composed shots which frame Petunya trapped in her station combined with jolting handheld sequences which mimic the perspective of the news reporter. The acting is likewise delightful. The protagonist is quick-witted and Zorica Nusheva excellently captures her spirit.
It’s rare for a film with such a demanding docket of questions to succeed in addressing them so head-on without feeling too preachy. Mitevska embarks on an ambitious journey to untangle the hypocrisies of our time. She extrapolates sticky issues and traditions steeped in archaic order. God Exists, Her Name is Petrunya is pensive and slow but not stuck, an antidote to our tendency to accept things the way they are.
God Exists, Her Name Is Petrunya does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Berlin Film Festival 2019 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Berlin Film Festival website here.