Through a Blurred Glass

Jovan Marković

In his directorial debut with the short movie BREATH / DAH (2018), the famous Bosnian actor Ermin Bravo creates an open metaphor. The minimalist narrative, adapted from a screenplay that Bravo wrote himself, encourages the spectators to keep thinking after the screening. This less-is-more approach has proven to be very effective, but there is always a fine line between the point, where the reduction of narrative elements enriches the possible meanings of a story, and, on the other hand, the moment, where an audience simply does not get enough material for interpretation. The dialogue-less BREATH walks that ledge with great delicacy.

The 26-year-old Igor is working as a young janitor in a medical rehabilitation center. There he develops an intriguing relation with one of the patients, the elderly Edita who undergoes physical therapy. Their relationship is depicted without words – they are looking at each other at night, while the woman is in the swimming pool and the young man is standing outside, watching her. They are separated by glass. This situation is repeated a couple of times, with small variations. The two mirror each other’s actions, for instance in the way they both hide their cigarette butt in a snowball, yet only communicate through eye contact. One night the woman undresses herself, comes out of the pool and comes nears the window. There she also takes off her swimming cap and shows her bald head. Finally, she comes so close, that her breath becomes visible on the glass, blurring the image between them. The next day we learn that the old woman has died, and that intimate moment from the night before becomes more significant, because we realize that she shared her last breath with a stranger. Metaphorically speaking, this scene could be perceived as her attempt to leave some part of herself to someone who will outlive her. This metaphor contains ambiguity, they are at the same time very intimate, but also very distant and isolated, as they are always separated by the glass window. It is important to notice that this physical border between them blocks the possibility of any spoken interaction, which emphasizes that their connection and the emotions they share are beyond the domain of language. The fact that the woman undresses herself could be perceived as a trustful surrender as a consequence of the closeness of death, but it is also the act of ultimate intimacy, and it has a strong erotic impact.

This scene is powerful and contains various possibilities for interpretation, however, due to the confines of the short-film format, it is also almost everything we get from the movie. The sparse narrative is told rather straightforwardly, so it leaves the impression that the whole movie is subordinated to this particular pay-off, and that everything we see before is merely a preparation for that moment. The plot surely would have benefitted from some more subtext, either visual or narrative. The presence of the actors on the other hand makes every moment like a miniature painting of emotions.

All in all, BREATH is a promising debut. Bravo shows his directorial skills and commendable visual thinking, managing to create the story and relationship between his characters in a very limited space and timeframe.