Leptirica [She-Butterfly] (1973)

Director: Djordje Kadijevic
Writer: Djordje Kadijevic
Based on: Milovan Glisic’ short story Posle devedeset godina
Cast: Mirjana Nikolic, Petar Bozovic, Slobodan ‘Cica’ Perovic, Vasja Stankovic, Aleksandar Stojkovic, Tanasije Uzunovic, Ivan Djurdjevic, Bogoljub Petrovic
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 25.9.2021

A small town in the middle of nowhere is facing a problem: their millers keep dying, murdered, as they suspect, by a mysterious creature that seems to have ties to the village itself. Without a miller, there is no flour and without flour, the village is soon bound to starve. The men of the village think they have found a solution, though. As they look for the creature, they ask Strahinja (Petar Bozovic) to take over as miller. He is poor and needs something to prove himself so he may marry Radojka (Mirjana Nikolic), so Strahinja accepts. But the search for the creature is difficult and Strahinja may be in more danger than he realizes.

I really enjoyed Leptirica, especially because it gives us a very different take on a creature that is often referred to as a vampire (I’d argue, it’s something else entirely). Understandably a classic.

The film poster showing the film title as if written with wooden planks. A butterfly is impaled on the "T" and a moon dangles on a string from the "C". There is a skull in the moon, and below the moon, there is a village.

Leptirica is a made for TV film that only runs for about an hour. Given its age and the fact it was most likely made with very little money, there are some things that you just have to get used to. And by some things, I mostly mean its sound design (although the film consisting of drunk men being rowdy a lot was also a little exhausting), obviously recorded in a studio afterwards, often sounding very fake. It’s irritating, but that’s just how it is. And I will say that the “Leptirica Sound” absolutely makes up for the rest of it, because that sound is simply great.

And I very much liked the mythology of the film or rather its creature. I keep seeing it mentioned as a vampire, but as I said before, I read it as something entirely different. Yes, there are some parallels, but there are also parts I have never seen in any vampire mythology. The flour, the butterfly, the laugh – I’m not even sure that there is any blood-sucking going on.

Radojka (Mirjana Nikolic) holding a bouquet of flowers and Strahinja (Petar Bozovic) leaning towards her.

I was also really surprised by the ending. I really thought that things would turn in a different direction than they did, and I wouldn’t have liked that direction very much. I liked the actual version much better (also unusual, I often think of – in my opinion – better stories when I wonder about where things are headed).

In short, it’s a really lovely classic that deserves to be remembered. I’m glad that it was included in this year’s SLASH Filmfestival’s retrospective about folk horror, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have never heard of it and that would have been a pity.

Radojka (Mirjana Nikolic) with her mouth full of sharp teeth.

Summarizing: absolutely worth seeing.

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