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A Holy Place

A Holy Place

(Sveto mesto)

International Premiere

  • Serbia 1990
  • 90 min
  • 35mm
  • Serbian with English subtitles
Hosted by producer Zoran Otasevic



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Director: Djordje Kadijevic
Screenplay: Djordje Kadijevic, from Nikolai Gogol
Cast: Dragan Jovanovic, Branka Pujic, Aleksandar Bercek, Mira Banjac
Producers: Zoran Otasevic, Dusan Kalmic
Print Source: Belgrade Cinematheque

Part of...

Subversive Serbia   

Subversive Serbia



This is the version of Nikolai Gogol's short story “Viy” that foreign audiences have barely ever seen—most have probably never heard of it. Unlike the rather benign Russian fantasy VIY (1967), the Serbian version is definitively for adults, in terms of both erotic and horrific content. The story is still about a reluctant theology student forced to spend three nights in a row locked in a spooky church, reading the Psalms over the (un)dead girl. All the while, supernatural forces are trying to grab him from the holy circle drawn on the floor. Gogol's half-humorous story is enriched into a more complex one by the new back-story for the witch-girl and her father. They provide an unparalleled excess of perversity and terror, whose intensity is unique among other, tamer Slavic attempts at producing fear.

In Kadijevic's version, the character of Catherine is the embodiment of the femme fatale. A number of flashbacks reveal the young woman as a true devourer of men and, in a rare example of an explicit lesbian scene in Serbian cinema, of women too. Catherine's back-story is learned through a gradual process, with three separate stories about her (each more horrible than the previous one), heard on three successive nights. The final "turn of the screw," completely invented by the screenwriter/director, is reminiscent of the powerful climaxes in Pupi Avati's Italian rural gothics, suggesting the corruption and perversion hidden beneath the respectable appearances. This “Serbian gothic” is psychologically motivated. For Kadijevic, a veteran of Serbian cinema, the human condition is quite sufficient as a source of horror, and the eternal struggles of Eros and Thanatos seem to be at its core. A HOLY PLACE is most reminiscent of Mario Bava's gothic films, both in terms of elaborate visuals and of a serious, dramatic treatment of the story and characters. Barely noticed at the time of its release, A HOLY PLACE remains a hidden gem of psycho-supernatural horror which audiences outside of Serbia have yet to discover. Since the film is not available on DVD, this is the only chance you'll ever get to see it with English subtitles and on the big screen that its imagery deserves.

—Dejan Ognjanovic

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