An example of the power of the visuals and a very poetic movie, not only because of its shot composition but also for the voiceover with texts and a Serbian poem, increasing the dramatic intensity.
The feature All the Cities of the North directed by Dane Komljen (2016) portraits the everyday lives of two men living in an abandoned bungalow complex in southern Montenegro.
This movie is an example of the power of the visuals. There aren’t any dialogues, which is not necessary to understand the chemistry between these two characters. The only times there are opportunities to hear the characters’ voices are during the few voiceovers. The rest of All the Cities of the North is ambient sounds and beautifully composed shots. The natural lighting is fascinating and Komljen wisely uses it throughout the movie with the constant game of shadows reflecting in the symmetric architecture. The aesthetic of the movie relies on its geometry and palette of color. Even though there is sunlight, everything feels cold by the constant presence of cold colors like blue and saturated greens.
However, in an interview with “Cinema Scope”, Dane Komljen mentions the appearance of the color red when the third character that disturbs their peaceful routine appears. It is more relevant in the scene when they are painting red a white chair or by the bonfire scenes.
In the same interview, Komljen mentions “I make cinema about bodies in movement.” The audience gets invited into these characters’ utopic life surrounded by nature. They eat berries off trees, they wrestle in a rooftop, they walk around the woods. “Even when they’re sleeping, they’re not still. There’s always something going on”, says Komljen. Although all the constant movement in the film, the rhythm is still very calm achieved by the lack of dialogues. It shows life the way it is, slow and silent most of the time.
From beginning to end, the storyline leaves some clues about the approach to the theme of love. Right in the beginning, there is a shot of the two men sleeping next to each other. Later, one of the voiceovers is about the two images of his father created by one of the characters. One of the images is of him always dressed after work. The other one is of him naked in the shower. At first, it sounds like he refers to a bad parenthood. Their relationship sounds distant. However, by the end of the movie, there is a voiceover that recites one passage of the poem about Prince Marko. All the doubts about the love story get cleared. The movie now also carries a biographical form. Komljen explains “It came from me trying to figure out my relationship with men. With my father and my lover in particular.” Of course, the viewer doesn’t need to be aware of this piece of information to understand the true essence of the movie and the biographical reality it carries.
In All the Cities of the North, there is also the constant presence of water. An intriguing shot is the two men wrapped in big blankets staring at the river in the middle of the seeds. Another one is an underwater shot of a man swimming naked. It is an aesthetic choice that adds to the rest of the beauty of the movie.
It is a very poetic movie not only because of its shot composition but also for the voiceover with texts and a Serbian poem, increasing the dramatic intensity.