Powerful and intriguing
- Honeyland review by PD
Directed by Ljubomir Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska, this film is a documentary about the life and labours of one Hatidze Muratova. Originally commissioned to make a video about conservation efforts in Macedonia, the filmmakers apparently spent three years with Hatidze, and as a result, the film is great at recording the rhythms and textures of rural life, the directors shaping their observations into a neorealist fable; an impossibly stirring tale of struggle, persistence and change.
Hatidze lives with her mother Nazife, who is bedridden and partly blind, a dog named Jackie, a few cats, and ... quite a few industrious bees. Hatidze’s methods are intimate and humane; she’s endowed with a loving touch that, seemingly, the bees and the other animals recognise. She speaks to them and sings to them, but, above all, she nurtures and nourishes them, telling the bees, “half for you, half for me”, treating the hives that she sustains on another rock wall, alongside her home, with familial care. And Hatidze isn’t entirely isolated from the rest of the world. Skopje is only a little more than 12 miles away, and she travels there, on foot and by train, to sell her honey. Because of its superior quality and her shrewdness, it fetches a good price. But just as we are settling into Hatidze’s company, appreciating the edges and contours of her personality and savouring the deep pleasure of her work, the pastoral calm is shattered by a family rumbling into the village in a noisy trailer that turns out to be the quietest thing about it. At first, Hatidze welcomes these neighbours - Turkish speakers like her, but the the sheer chaos that surrounds them conspire to disrupt Hatidze’s routines. From this point the film unfolds with a novelistic intricacy and tightly sprung dramatic mechanism, and we get caught up in its destructive power, its brewing enmities, and its overarching, tragic sense of the disturbance of cosmic order.
Films of this kind inevitably raise questions - I found myself wondering what she thought of the filmmakers who were following her on this perilous mission—how she and they arranged the shooting, and what effect the filmmakers’ presence had on her. Solitude is one of the film’s prime subjects and also its dramatic mainspring, and its details and practicalities are merely hinted at, and rather unexplored. Much of the movie is filmed in the Muratova home; Hatidze displays the daily details of her domestic life and her labours to the filmmakers, who must have virtually lived with her for the time while they were filming. But the terms of their complicity, the relationship that they and Hatidze share, remain a somewhat frustrating blank. However, for all of this, this is powerful, intriguing work.
6 out of 6 members found this review helpful.
Restores faith in the medium of film
- Honeyland review by TE
Every so often a film comes along which defies conventional analysis. The 'docu-drama' genre is a good source of such films, and Honeyland is an outstanding example.
The review by PD contains a lot of helpful detail, and an important questioning. Ultimately the film succeeds on several levels, from the visually stunning cinematography to the allegorical message implicit in the despoiling of Hatidze's bee colony.
This is simply a magnificent example of the power of film to inform and to advocate.
3 out of 3 members found this review helpful.