Serbian cutting: assemblage and the
archival impulse in the films of Dušan Makavejev

by Greg DeCuir, Jr.

Part one: a visual essay

Serbian cutting is marked by a visual reflexivity that organizes content along both formal and thematic lines. The documentary elements of the films represented here are in dialogue ... ... with the fictional elements. Often this dialogue stretches across the boundaries of successive films in Makavejev’s oeuvre. This image from the opening credit sequence in Love Affair foreshadows… …the positioning of Izabela when she makes love to Mica the postman, also serving as the reflexive interval that triggers the assemblage of Serbian cutting.
Another image from the opening credit sequence depicts a woman on her back making love to a swan. This points to the iconic image of Izabela on her stomach ... … with a black cat lying on her rear end. As said by the old Soviet masters, montage does not only happen between frames but also within the frame. The method of Makavejev’s montage stacks disparate images against each other ... ... and also works to collage elements within the frame.This image seems to speak to the voyeuristic act that is cinema spectatorship, also commenting on the sexualized subject of the traditionally male gaze…
In Sweet Movie Miss World becomes… …the sexualized object of the cinematic gaze. In Love Affair a naked Izabela often serves as this sexualized object. Makavejev comments on her status as a star through this playfully-reflexive image, as she walks past a marquee advertising Eva Ras (written in Serbian Cyrillic as EBA PAC), her real-life identity, in a production.
The first major documentary sequence in the film Love Affair reveals Dr. Kostic lecturing in his office. Visible behind him is a human skull. This rhymes with the second major documentary sequence in the film, featuring Dr. Aleksic as he lectures with multiple human skulls visible in the background. The cycle of life and death is a thematic strand in Love Affair. Makavejev often allows eggs to symbolize this theme. Here is an image of Izabela’s rear end…
…which is followed by a match cut detailing two eggs. This linkage is commented upon further when Dr. Kostic theorizes the importance of eggs in the cycle of life. The credit sequence of WR: Mysteries of the Organism is structured around the cyclical passing of an egg yolk as a metaphor for communal sex…
…just as eggs represent a vibrant sexual passion in Sweet Movie. The act of eating is a symbol constantly referenced in Innocence Unprotected. The elaborate assemblage of archival footage juxtaposes various scenes of people sharing food and drink. The previous image also weds a connotation of death to the cycle of life that eating plays a part in, juxtaposed against this archival material.
Eating is a matter of life and death, literally. It can also serve as nourishment for strong and healthy armies that intend to mete out ... . ... destruction. War machines need nourishment too, as alluded to in this archival footage. This image of peasant women harvesting grapes and eating them…
…recalls Izabela in Love Affair and the grapes that she tempts Ahmed with, which represent a loss of innocence of sorts. The purity of these grapes is profaned with wine to satisfy the occupiers in Innocence Unprotected. The innocence of Serbia is feasted upon by those same occupiers.
In Innocence Unprotected eating and drinking are of paramount importance. There is always time for a meal. The act of consuming ... ... affords protection in the face of an onslaught. Aleksic, the star of the film, is invincible in part because he eats right.
Meals bring color to a bleak existence. A grotesque parody of this coloring occurs in the infamous commune meal in Sweet Movie.  

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