Damian Nenadić, Croatia/Slovenia, 2018, 74'
International Premiere
Mon. 6.8.2018, 11h00, La Sala
Tue. 7.8.2018, 18h30, L'altra Sala

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In Days of Madness, Maja is asked: "Why is borderline a disease and nationalism is not?" "Why is agoraphobia pathological, but homophobia is not?" The questions are meant as an encouragement. The boyish young woman has just been through a suicide attempt and an umpteenth hospital stay. The list of the prescribed psychotropic drugs is longer than the ties she wears from time to time. She was diagnosed with borderline disorder and has a transgender identity. Maja Šćukanec is one of the two main protagonists who, in Damian Nenadi’s captivating documentary, show us inner views of a world beyond what we know (and recognise) as normal.

The second protagonist is Mladen Bađun. At the beginning of the 1990s, he returned home from the war in Yugoslavia with mental health problems. His family sent him to a priest – rather than to a doctor. The stigma surrounding the psychic suffering (not only) in his deeply religious environment is revealed in a subsequent confrontation with him and the clergyman: when psychiatry is considered a "temple of Satan" and the concept of sin is used, the believer’s suffering is additionally burdened with feelings of guilt. We see Mladen in his parents’ home contemplating a sacred image with a prominently placed whip and we witness a conversation with his mother, a wizened old woman, who blankly says things like: "We think a car trailer is worth more than you."

Maja and Mladen describe their condition and experience mostly with their own images. The director gave them handy cameras to let them film themselves and their environment. The result is a film that lets us, literally at first hand, witness Mladen’s religious intoxication and Maja’s physical disintegration caused by the side effects of drugs.

Although the crudeness of these recordings may irritate at first, their intensity soon captures us. We are sometimes perturbed, sometimes stirred and think we can at least begin to imagine the suffering the protagonists are going through. Fortunately, Days of Madness is also the report of gradual emancipation and recovered autonomy. Maja says she would like to be someone who saves the world, but that she would need to save herself first. In the end, she seems to be very close to her goal.

Julia Marx