Croatian mania player “The Last Socialist Artefact” brings hope for tomorrow
In “The Last Socialist Artifact”, businessmen Nikola and Oleg travel to a rusty town in the Balkans to convince its citizens to restart the factory that once employed so many. This sets off a journey both individual and collective, and in six episodes their character is revealed, tested and changed.
Each episode is named after one of its characters and takes the time necessary to explore their humanity. Nikola, for example, is calm and desperate at first, only to find his calling as a leader when he is left behind to run the factory.
The limited series, adapted from the novel “No-Signal Area” by Robert Perišić, is part of this year’s official Series Mania selection. It is produced by Ankica Juric Tilic with Kinorama and directed by Dalibo Matanić.
Variety spoke with Ankica ahead of the series premiere at Series Mania.
Oleg and Nikola have a wonderful chemistry as the protagonists of this series, the way they play each other. Can you tell us about your approach for these two?
These two characters are close friends and cousins, but they do not share any qualities, values, habits or origins. They complement each other even when they argue or fight, they care about each other. Building such a connection between two very different characters was easier than expected, thanks to the fact that they are played by such amazing actors.
The first two episodes are named after Oleg and Nikola. How did this style of storytelling allow you to drive the narrative of the series?
The characters from the original novel were the main motivation for creating this series. They were so inspiring, so believable and so strong that I wanted to see them on screen. Halfway through the development process, we decided to dedicate each of the episodes to one of the six main characters to guide us through the story. It was a bold choice and it complicated the storytelling process, but I think it was worth it.
“The Last Socialist Artefact” is based on the novel “No-Signal Area” by Robert Perisic. What were the challenges and joys of adapting the novel?
I believe that the series conveys the world of the novel to the maximum, as with the characters. We’re used to watching stories about the destruction of a firmly entrenched world – this one is quite the opposite, it’s a story about building. Our characters start to build something together and by creating together they bring out the best in each other. It brings hope. In this, the series is fully faithful to the novel. As for the challenges, the novelist’s freedom to spread the action over several decades is not a luxury a filmmaker can easily afford. We also had to do a few cuts, cut a few plots, and condense the story. Adapting is never easy, but I firmly believe that we have captured the very heart of the story.
Music plays an important role in this series, with characters sometimes singing and spun records. Can you talk about the musical choices?
All credit for musical choices goes to the director – he feels the world through the music as much as he does through the visual. The songs the actors sing, most of them deeply sad and touching, reflect their hidden inner world and they have all been carefully chosen. The original score is written by Jura Ferina and Pavao Miholjević, the composers with whom we have worked on many films and TV series.
This story puts its characters in a small village in the Balkans without cell phone reception. How does this plot device change the narration of the story?
The novel’s original title, identical to the series’ Croatian title, is “Zone Without a Signal” – it’s not just a symbol of a desolate town that no one cares about; it’s also a symbol of the lack of communication or miscommunication between the characters, or should I say – between us. It was important to the story so we kept it, but of course it caused a lot of obstacles in the storytelling that we had to cheat. Luckily the reception isn’t completely blocked, it’s hit or miss, so we played around with that a lot. Ultimately, as the show proves: personal contact is most valuable, so not having a welcome can ultimately benefit us.
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