Kelti [Celts] (2021)

Director: Milica Tomovic
Writer: Tanja Sljivar, Milica Tomovic
Cast: Dubravka Kovjanic, Stefan Trifunovic, Katarina Dimic, Anja Djordjevic, Olga Odanovic, Konstantin Ilin, Milica Grujicic, Slaven Doslo, Nikola Rakocevic, Nada Sargin, Jovana Gavrilovic, Jelena Djokic, Jovan Belobrkovic, Atanasije Stogren
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 28.10.2021

It’s 1993 in Belgrade. Inflation is high, ressources are scarce. Nevertheless, Marijana (Dubravka Kovjanic) is putting together a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle themed birthday party for her youngest daughter Minja (Katarina Dimic), from home-made Raphael costume to sandwiches that have to make do with margarine because butter is simply too expensive. As the house fills with children and adults coming to party, the tensions between Marijana and her husband (Stefan Trifunovic) become ever more visible though.

Kelti is an amazingly enjoyable film. It’s funny, evocative of the time period it takes place in and has great characters. It was a favorite of this year’s Viennale for me.

The film poster showing a group of women in party mode, holding cigarettes and smiling.

Watching Kelti I felt very much reminded of my own birthday parties when I was a child. Not that my parents smoked and drank, or that I was in Belgrade, but the little but world shattering drama, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the dynamic between the children was simply so spot-on, I felt transported back.

But the children actually take the back seat – the children’s party is just an occasion for the adults to come together and get drunk, discuss politics, and live out their own relationship drama. And there is drama to be had – whether it’s the two ex-girlfriends meeting each other again, while one has a new partner in tow, or the icy distance between Minja’s parents that actually takes center stage (as much as something can take center stage in an ensemble piece like this).

Marijana (Dubravka Kovjanic) mixing soft drinks from powder while watching TV with her mother (Olga Odanovic) and her daugher Minja (Katarina Dimic).

The way this conflict is introduced, which is, in fact, the very first scene of the film, is simply glorious: As her husband is in the bathroom, Marijana starts masturbating. As he walks out of the bathroom that is adjacent to the bedroom, he sees her masturbating in bed, and quietly walks past and closes the door. It’s the perfect scene that introduces these characters and their relationship perfectly – and it’s indicative of the wonderful way Tomovic handles her characters overall.

That the film is Tomovic’s debut makes it even more impressive, but it feels so accomplished that I would have believed it if you’d told me that Tomovic has been making movies forever. I’m already looking forward to seeing what she does next.

Marijana (Dubravka Kovjanic) smoking and laughing with her friend Ceca (Jelena Djokic).

Summarizing: fantastic.

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