Tragedy and Farce in Dušan Kovačević’s Post-Yugoslav Screenplays

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Pages 34-43
POPULAR INQUIRY: The Journal of the Aesthetics of Kitsch, Camp and Mass Culture, 1/2020
Commenting on Hegel’s remark that all great world-historic facts and personages appear twice, Marx famously appended that they do so the first time as tragedy, and the second time as farce. This paper intends to show how the film scripts by popular Serbian playwright Dušan Kovačević (b. 1948) can be read as a specific post-Yugoslav and post-communist artistic commentary on Marx’s claim. Kovačević’s scripts for three well-known post-Yugoslav films are discussed: Emir Kusturica’s controversial Underground (1995), Goran Marković’s The Tragic Burlesque (1995), and Kovačević’s own The Professional (2003). Within the larger frame of post-Yugoslav cinema, these three films constitute an important segment of the ideological current of self-Balkanization, which seemed to be all over the place especially in the Serbian cinema of the 1990s. What these self-Balkanizing films have in common, according to Pavičić, is a perception of the Balkans as a zone of permanent and inveterate chaos, a zone to which occasional wars are actually rather endemic. The three Kovačević’s scripts in question are very much in the same vein, yet they are substantially more farcical in nature when compared to self-Balkanizing films that were not written by Kovačević. It is in this specific Balkan mixture of tragedy and farce, exclusive to Kovačević’s poetics, that one can detect an aesthetical reply to Marx’s aforementioned view of history: tragedy and farce not as consecutive events, rather as two complementary artistic insights of the same event. And, while over the years there have been numerous exegeses on the political message provided in Underground by Kusturica, a lot less has been said about the effect of Kovačević’s publicly known political stance as a royalist (i.e., a supporter of the 1945-deposed Karađorđević royal family) on his scripts. The three scripts in question prove to be completely consistent with such viewpoints.
tragedy, farce, post-Yugoslav cinema, royalism, self-Balkanization, Dušan Kovačević, Emir Kusturica
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