In the forest of Yugoslavs (“Hedgehog’s Home”, E. Cvijanović)

Say what you want about my home.

I am safe and happy under its dome.

Simple and modest but it is all mine.

I am free here and I feel fine.

There is this old and really interesting tradition in education that was common in the Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia and survived its fall. That is the choice of the first book that is read in primary schools. The honour to be the first book that shapes the young minds of Yugoslavian children was the »Ježeva kućica« fairytale poem with animals of novelist Branko Ćopić. 60 years after the poem was published, a Croatian director Eva Cvijanović decided to adapt it to film.

»Ježeva Kućica« follows hedgehog Ježurko who was invited by a fox to her luxurious home for lunch. After lunch, the fox extends her invitation for the hedgehog to stay and sleepover at her house, and after he declines the invitation, all the animals in the forest start asking themselves in what kind of home does the hedgehog live that he declines foxes offer.

The whole film smells like it was Yugoslavian made, so in every aspekt, it really could have been made 30-40 years ago as today. It all starts with music made by Darko Rundek, a Croatian New Wave musician, best known for his band Haustor. It has an amazing voice over done by Rade Šerbedžija, probably the best-known actor of the former republic. It is all summed up in the film aesthetics, or to be precise in set design. Sets that reimagine the fairytale were designed the way they actually looked like something that would be displayed in primary schools.

Because it is a line by line adaptation of a poem, there is no need to criticise this part of a film, but the thing that really occupied my attention in the film was the camera. While most stop motion animations use a static camera or in the best case a camera on a rail, Eva Cvijanović decided to make a brave step forward and to freely move the camera across the film set.

I came to the film because of childhood nostalgia, I went out full of emotions and with lots of questions, I have no answers to. How do people around the world comprehend this film, when »Hedgehogs Home« is not the first book they read in schools? Do they understand the poem? Do they understand the cleverly implemented background message? Will the film take over the position of literature in education any time soon? But maybe the most important question is the work of Branko Ćopić still relevant, now, in the time of a refugee crisis and when more and more young people from ex Yugoslavian countries are leaving their homes because of the bad social-political situation in their countries. After 60 years, I guess lines from the beginning of this text, are not really relevant anymore.

Photos are taken from: Facebook