Miroslav Terzić’s Panorama contribution, Stitches, has a double meaning. For one, Ana, the stoic mother at the centre of the film, is a seamstress. But the title also refers also to the structure of the feature. The director offers her audience small patches with which to understand the trauma that has afflicted the protagonist and her family. It is in these fragmented segments that we start to unfurl the tragedy that has afflicted not only Ana but many Serbian mothers, who have been told their newborns have died shortly after childbirth only for them to be sold up for adoption. Over 18 years have passed but Ana still cannot accept the lack of transparency. She cannot live on without knowing the fate of her son. Is he alive or truly dead?
Terzić develops a fraught family dynamic. In the opening sequence, the air is thick with a screaming silence. The cutlery scrapes against plates as Ana serves birthday cake for her absent child. Snezana Bogdanovic, Marko Bacovic, Jovana Stojiljkovic brilliantly bounce off one another’s distant energy. The husband and daughter both want Ana to move on, but the reality of the situation is that she can’t. A clue sets her off on a hunt looking for some start of clarity; she needs to know if her suspicions are true.
There are aesthetic nuances that imbue depth and give the story delicate richness. As our protagonist opens one elevator door at the municipality building, another closes. Terzić delightfully captures the architecture of the communist era with block apartment buildings dwarfing the small woman in her pursuit of truth. However, the film is singular and doesn’t fully encapsulate the life going on outside of their story, making it hard to get a firm grasp of the wider context.
It is late on in our journey with Ana that we understand she is looking for her son. Each new patch weaves into the narrative but there is no rhythm helping us to follow. The final act is a series of reunions that counteracts the vast gaps in the beginning but then becomes over-explanatory. Ultimately, we are left with a glimmer of hope. It’s not until just before the credits roll that the film explains how hundreds of families have suffered the same fate, and this message could have been driven home more forcefully had there been a broader scope of the world from the onset.
Stitches (Šavovi) 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.