Prof. Mr.sc. Srdja Orbanic
Prof. Mr.sc. Srdja Orbanic (Pula, Croatia)
With his "Balkan Aquarelle" Drazan Gunjaca continued his trip on the way paved by "Balkan Roulette". It has to be said that the new drama cannot really be considered a continuation of the first: they are connected by some characters and the setting, but all the other characteristics are substantially different.
While the first was a black humour comedy, with a tragic farce, this one kept only the tragic elements, those coming from ethical conflicts of the individual and the society. In Gunjaca's case the conflict between the individual, Petar, and the society, which began and so tragically ended in the first drama, continues even after the hero's death.
The dramatic construction is extremely demanding: it makes a dead character take on the leading role. Gunjaca manages in his attempt using choral characters among which Petar's friend Mario may be the leader but he remains at the same level with all the other characters in the drama. Petar remains the main character, "in absence" so to speak, and the dramatic plot develops around the position of the other characters in regard to this absence.
That is the reason for a change in the texture itself so that longer speeches give way to shorter ones. While I was reading Gunjaca's drama, I couldn't help thinking that it was more like a dialogue list of an action movie than what it actually is, a closet drama.
Gunjaca has an incredible capability for not letting his expression escape a complete denotation and thus realize itself as a documentary statement. There is not a minimal detachment towards connotative semiotic patterns; it is firmly anchored in reality, one of the epistemologically possible realities.
Gunjaca's tragic quid is actually a philosophical problem of possible alternative worlds. The real world is problematic for the characters of "Balkan Aquarelle", it cannot satisfy them from the ethical point of view. Petar revealed the core of this problematic situation with his apparently tragic decision to both symbolically and actually abandon the world which destroys the human essence, humanity in the widest sense of the word. Therefore, the tragic quality does not stem from his deed, made justifiable and understandable by the writing skill of the author, but from the impossibility of the other characters to give it the symbolic value they all perceive and realize but, owing to the circumstances or their mentality, cannot cope with.
Out of the relationship of this individual, personal deed and its social connotation Gunjaca skillfully constructs the drama we all live, the drama of a man who has to confront his dark side and transcend the stereotypical thinking and living. In his humanistic pessimism Gunjaca is offering us a picture of the world that is disturbing because it is so real, and it does not offer the possibility to appeal to extenuating circumstances (of life or any other for that matter). This pessimistic cathartic dimension of the author's writing finds its congruency in the nemesis all the characters are forced to go through.
When the gods play games, people are only pawns on the board.
(writer, dramatist, Novi Sad, Serbia)
When reading "THE BALKAN AQUARELLE" one is bound to think of "Antigone". It is a compliment for the author, but definitely not for humanity, even if reduced only to the Balkans. After three thousand years, the right of burial remains a political issue. Mortal enemies cannot claim their right to live; political enemies have no right to live or to die, whether they are Polynices or Petar, an ex-captain of the ex-Yugoslav army. Just like once Creon, at the beginning of the nineties in the name of their gods, the admiral commanding the garrison and the chief of police hate even through the graves.
The admiral and the police chief are on the opposing sides of parties at war, but it doesn't prevent them from making a pact against those who refuse or cannot choose a side thus proving that it is not absolutely necessary. If you let someone remain uncommitted you cannot create a world in which there are only "us" and "them". By agreeing to belong amongst "us" or "them" you agree to the rules of a game pretentiously called the making of history by its team captains. There is no room for those who do not want to play. No life or death for them, not even existence, because a tombstone is a testimony of someone's existence when he's gone.
Dead, not buried and uncommitted, Petar succeeds to move the foundations of this world in which there is room only for "us" and "them", even if only for a moment. This is a catharsis for the characters of the drama since they realize that thy may not have things in common as Croats or Serbs, but as human beings they surely have a lot in common, the same troubles and the same need to solve their problems. This message, articulated as a wail, is the greatest quality of Gunjaca's drama.
The greatest quality but not the only one. Quality can be found in the way the story is told and constructed, in the characters and their relationships as well as in the appropriate atmosphere, which is only apparently pathetic.
I recommend the drama for reading, playing and watching.
I. Grguric (Gradanski list, Novi Sad, Serbia, November 2, 2004)
excerpt Hopelessness, roulette, garrison language
Dealing with themes reagrding the Balkans, the time in which "destiny has no patience for normal people", as well as with "peoples of which none has the exclusive right to suffering", Drazan Gunjaca gave back to the Serbo-Croatian war that dimension that was its own from the start - the dimension of the absurd. Gunjaca's plays Balkan Roulette and Balkan Acquerelle, published in a single volume symbolically entitled Godot has arrived, tell us about disasters, disorientation and the absurdity of life, as well as of the even greater absurdity of death. The impossibility to find answer to the questions raised, a way out which would preserve human dignity, the impossibility to accept a new order of things become a reality where not even death is a solution, because in a war, not even the dead can remain uncommitted.