All the Cities of the North
Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro
In an abandoned hotel complex situated on the edge of Montenegro near the Albanian border, two men have taken up shelter. In this space overgrown with vegetation, inhabited by dogs and donkeys, they live a basic daily existence out of, to quote director Dane Komljen, "a desire to imagine a new order of things." Within the fenced-off boundaries of this makeshift orange and blue tent community of two, communication is inessential. There is no dialogue in Svi severni gradovi (All the Cities of the North) – a film that echoes Sokurov and Apichatpong while explicitly referencing Simone Weil, Godard’s Passion and Serbian epic poetry – only a series of expressive monologues, which connects this space to abandoned or repurposed modernist utopian constructions elsewhere (Lagos, Brasilia), or contrasts them to the ex-Yugoslavian metropolises to their north. A third nameless man arrives (played by the director), and he joins the two settlers in moments of quiet repose; of gathering and cooking food; of building and rebuilding. Slowly he disturbs their fragile patterns, and the film itself becomes slightly agitated, visually and sonically, as they find a way to live side by side. Yet even when things are burning, a calmness and tenderness remains, making for a debut unlike any other emerging from the former Yugoslavia in recent years.
By Mark Peranson