Partisan film

Partisan film (Serbo-Croatian: partizanski film, партизански филм) is the name for a subgenre of war films made in FPR/SFR Yugoslavia during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. In the broadest sense, main characteristics of partisan films are that they are set in Yugoslavia during World War II and have Yugoslav Partisans as main protagonists, while antagonists are Axis forces and their collaborators.

Definition and scope

There are disagreements, even among the film critics, about the exact definition of the genre.[3] Partisan films are often equated solely with the populist, entertainment-oriented branch of the genre, characterized by epic scope, ensemble casts, expensive production, and emotionally intense scenes, all introduced into Yugoslav war films by Veljko Bulajić's Kozara (1962).[4][5] The other branch  much less interesting to the Communist establishment  was represented by modernist films, ranging from the poetic naturalism of the Yugoslav Black Wave to experimental stream-of-consciousness films.[5]

By the 1980s, economic hardship in the country, as well as change in the ideological landscape, particularly with the younger Yugoslav generation, caused a waning of interest in the genre, and the critical and commercial failure of Bulajić's Great Transport (1983) is usually seen as a symbolic end of the partisan film era.[6]

In his analysis of Fadil Hadžić's The Raid on Drvar (1963), Croatian film critic Jurica Pavičić identifies seven key characteristics of what he calls "super-Partisan films":[7]

  • Focus on crucial, well-known, "textbook" examples of Partisan struggle, such as major battles and operations, which are then given an officially sanctioned interpretation.
  • Absence of authentic, high-profile figures of Partisan struggle, with the exception of Josip Broz Tito. In Pavičić's view, the rationale for this was to avoid threatening Tito's cult of personality.
  • Mosaic structure in which sometimes dozens of characters take part, and their fate is followed throughout the film. These characters represent different classes or walks of life (intellectuals, peasants), or different ethnicities.
  • Mixing of the comic with the tragic.
  • The presence of foreign (non-Yugoslav) characters as arbiters. Their role is to witness and verify the martyrdom and heroism of Yugoslav peoples as Partisan films depict them, sending a symbolical message ("There it is, the world acknowledges us as we are").
  • The characteristic treatment of the Germans: although they are portrayed as villains, and are demonized in various ways, they are also shown to be superior in power and discipline, and are depicted as an efficient, sophisticated, even glamorous adversary.
  • Deus ex machina endings, in which the Partisans break out of seemingly hopeless situations.

Pavičić's analysis was criticized for not being universally applicable to Partisan films, and a number of notable exceptions to the above formula were provided.[8]

Notable films

Notable television series

  • Otpisani
  • Kapelski kresovi
  • Mačak pod šljemom


  1. Cabric, Nemanja (10 August 2012). "Documentary Tells Story of the 'Walter Myth'". Retrieved 2012-10-18.
  2. Premec, Tina (8 February 2011). "Kultni film 'Valter brani Sarajevo' dobiva remake u seriji od 30 nastavaka". Jutarnji list (in Croatian). Retrieved 2012-10-18.
  3. Pavičić, Jurica (11 November 2009). "Vrdoljak je radio najbolje partizanske filmove". Jutarnji list (in Croatian). Retrieved 2010-05-23.
  4. "Kozara". Baza HR kinematografije (in Croatian). Croatian Film Association. Retrieved 2019-04-11.
  5. Šakić, Tomislav (2010). "Opsada, Branko Marjanović, 1956". (in Croatian). Subversive Film Festival. Archived from the original on 2013-02-03. Retrieved 2010-10-26.
  6. Pavičić 2016, pp. 61–62.
  7. Pavičić 2003, pp. 13–14
  8. Jovanović 2011, pp. 51–54


Further reading

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