Film review : Stitches (2019)
Guts-breaking story about stolen newborns.
It is estimated that about 3,000 newborns have been stolen during the '90s in Serbia in a mass criminal scam in which hospital medical staff was included. Nurses and doctors involved in the scam claimed that the babies were stillborn. About 20 years later, more than 500 cases have yet not been solved and some of the parents are still seeking their lost ones. After the 2012 debut, Ustanička Ulica, Serbian director Miroslav Terzić, earlier this year has presented his latest work, feature film Stitches, that showcases this harsh hidden reality.
Stitches bring us the story of Ana - starring Snežana Bogdanović - a seamstress who has lost her son, Stefan, 18 years ago when he was reportedly stillborn. Because Anna did not get the chance to see her son's body, and the hospital staff did not inform her where the baby was buried, she refuses to accept that the boy has passed away. Her family, husband Jovan -starring Marko Baćović - and teenage daughter Ivana - starring Jovana Stojiljković - are daily growing more and more frustrated with her obsession to lost Stefan.
Ripped everyday life
Adapted from a true story of seamstress Drinka Radonjić, -by scriptwriter Elma Tataragić - the film plays out in a fashion of multi-layered psychological drama, that showcases the harsh bureaucratic process on one side and devouring family dynamics on the other. From an intriguing premise, over the carefully shaped script to visually rather smart and subtle execution, every second of this film is used to encapsulate and bring the viewer into the emotionally devastating everyday life of a protagonist Ana.
As mentioned, the main strength of this film is the script, with dialogues that manage to mimic the true words of a mother fighting herself as well as unjust and delirious bureaucracy. It is all strengthened with Tataragić's desition to widen the story from one protagonist and bring us an unpredictable guts-breaking twist that objectiveness the whole situation of the film.
Stitched grey reality
When such a strong and deliberate story ends up in the hands of the skilful director, nothing can go wrong. We can see that in the case of Terzić, who amplifies the material with his deliberate use of sound and visuals to bring the tensions to a higher level. From the opening shot of the film, the three-membered family awkwardly eating their dinner in silence, where creaking and scratching of spoons and forks can be heard, it gets obvious that even the smallest sound will be carrying the meaning and heavy emotion in this film.
Adding up to that are the grey city visual aesthetics and the simultaneous movements in a frame (the synchronised door openings and closings). One of the more interesting choices in the film was the way it was edited, in smaller, almost a day life long episodes, that certainly to a significant point resembles the process of sewing/stitching.
Maybe the most significant desition of Stitches and the one that should be highly respected was to focus these 105 minutes of the film on one case and not to get out into wider society and all of its other issues.
Overall, Stitches is a well-crafted work about a Stoic lone fighter mother that reaches deep within the viewer's minds and hearts and makes them question the cold world we are living in. This is the film that presents the true power of European cinema, to expose small and usually unheard of issues to the wider world.
NB: Stitches has premiered in Panorama selection of Berlin International Film Festival 2019 and has also been nominated in the competition for the European Film Academy Award