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Forever Hold Your Peace (Živi i Zdravi)

Marriage from hell takes place in Montenegro as bride suddenly confesses that she wishes to "kill" the broom, in this explosive little comedy - from the Official Selection of the 27th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival

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The contrast couldn’t be more prominent. The sapphire blue Montenegrin sea and the idyllic beaches provide the perfect backdrop for the most beautiful and memorable of celebrations. Yet the gorgeous Dragana (Tihana Lazović) is barely enthusiastic about her impending wedding to the pudgy, clumsy and yet vaguely charming Momo (Goran Slavić). She goes to work the previous day, and refuses to talk with her future husband. She decides to forge ahead with the celebration purely because it’s too late to call it off. The Olympics and Eurovision whre already cancelled, so it’s not fair that she should disappoint her loving friends, relatives and hateful in-laws for the third time. She is not able to conceal her sentiments though. Her face is red, bursting with anger, disgust and apathy. Not a promising prospect.

As the ceremony kicks off, Dragana confesses to her husband-to-be that she constantly hopes for the sudden news of his death, be that a heart attack or a car crash. She goes even further, revealing that she often has murderous thoughts about him. She explains that his weak personality has put her off him. She despairs at the sight of Momo collapsing under the weight of his parents, particularly his formidable father. The demeanour of the males reveals that the super macho attitude is indeed prevalent in Montenegrin culture, and Momo’s more diffident masculinity is something to be frowned upon. But does the poor man deserve to become the victim of partner homicide? And is Dragana capable of enacting her innermost sinister desires? Her attachment to tradition and consideration for the guests suggest that she may not do it, at least not on the wedding day. Perhaps she’ll just file for a divorce the following day, beating Britney Spears in the shortest-marriage-ever race.

The celebration is as colourful and boisterous as it gets. Guests parade the cobbled village streets with a giant flag of a random country, presumably some sort of joke on nationalism. There is no shortage of fireworks, and the dangers associated with such large amounts of gunpowder represent a latent, explosive menace. The marriage from hell wouldn’t be perfect without the guests from hell. Feuding family members bitch and conspire against one another. Thrice-married uncle Lavandulo hits on the bride. The inebriated groom almost kisses the wrong woman by accident. Others dance, sing, twirl around the tables and get intoxicated entirely oblivious to the very visible fact that Dragana is not enjoying the event at all (the moment that the bride and the groom kiss is particularly cringeworthy). With so much free food, alcohol and late night music, who cares about the feelings of the “just married”? Let them sort their problems when they are alone in bed. The problem of course is that that moment may never come!

This lighthearted comedy is a mockery of old-fashioned tradition and protocols. This is not a criticism of the marriage institution per se, but instead of the bourgeois elements that can poison it. A big fat Montenegrin wedding can be overwhelming and suffocating. The union between two people should be a liberating experience. yet the social pressures bestowed upon them can turn the celebration into a burden, and dampen any prospect of happiness. The movie ending offers a somewhat facile solution, which may disappoint some and please others. One thing is unambiguous though: if you are seeking happiness, stay away from wedding celebrations.

Forever Hold Your Peace just premiered in the Official Selection of the 27th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival.


By Victor Fraga - 12-11-2023

Victor Fraga is a Brazilian born and London-based journalist and filmmaker with more than 20 years of involvement in the cinema industry and beyond. He is an LGBT writer, and describes himself as a di...

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