Sonja Savić and I


It was at Metlika cinema some time in the eighties that I saw two Yugoslav films from Belgrade. I remember how both of them filled me with enthusiasm. I can't remember the stories, but the titles still linger in my memory: Sugar Water and Living Like the Rest of us. Sonja Savić acted the lead roles. She was so beautiful and exquisite, so cinematic, as if the camera had literally fallen in love with her fragile and erotic figure. She was different - both feminine and child-like. Her beauty was modern and classic, like the beauty of Garbo. In her beauty, too, there is something sad, vulnerable, and unforgettable.
She was and remains the one and only Sonja Savić, a cult star of the eighties. To me, she and the rock group Ekatarina Velika were the two best things to come out of Belgrade.
Naturally, Sonja has not become a cult figure merely on the basis of her beauty and her acting accomplishments. She has played the roles of modern girls and women which real girls and women of the time could identify with. We could see parts of ourselves as we were or wanted to be in her characters and in her way of acting. What Sonja was offering on the screen was real and realistic. But it was also glamorous because of her radiant beauty.
Not only was her face fascinating, but her whole figure: the way she moved, her voice and her nakedness.
I am certain that boys and men dreamt about her, playing the nude scenes from the films again and again in their minds, wanting her and looking in their girlfriends and women for some of what used to be Sonja Savić the star.
She was without doubt the film star of the eighties, and from a generational point of view she became a cult star because of her whole personality and the things she said. I saw a TV documentary at the end of the eighties about her day-to-day life. She's sitting in the park, with greasy hair and loose jeans, looking deserted as she talks about her and our reality, the twilight zone.
People keep wondering, what's happened to Sonja Savić? And not only people who feel the same wonder about it  - those who know, who understand. There are lots of them around the former Yugoslavia.
Like Sonja, they have found their homes in the underground, the forbidden, in punk, in addictions, unadjustable, sensitive, vulnerable, discontented. Some of them are dead; others have survived, more or less. Sonja Savić is among the survivors.
In November 1998, when I was roaming with my sister Ida through the republics of ex-Yugoslavia to shoot Cesta bratstva in enotnosti  (The Road of Brotherhood and Unity), a friend, Maria, said to me:   "Would you like to interview Sonja Savić? She's a friend of mine, you know…"
Those of you who are reading this and have seen 'The Road' already know the rest. Sonja appears in my film. She's sitting in front of the camera, her head bent, and I ask her, "Sonja, how are you getting on in the nineties?" She looks at me with a strange smile on her face, and bends her head again as tears well up her eyes. I'm looking through the viewfinder as my eyes too fill with tears. I can't see through the viewfinder anymore. Seized with cramp, I clasp the camera even more tightly, dry the tears with my left-hand and go on filming. Sonja is talking about her generation, the war, life in Belgrade … About the death of Milan Mladenović, the singer in Ekatarina Velika, about their last concert in Novi Sad; she speaks, in ears, of their song, 'The Adriatic Sea': "Why don't you send word?… Why don't you write…? Where are you, and who with…? Who are you making love to…? It's cold here, it's winter, it's dark…I don't have a job, or anyone to sleep with… I've nowhere to sleep…Take me to the Adriatic Sea…I love the Adriatic Sea…Mmm, where the waves are calling…The white sails…"
I'm looking through the camera, filming; I zoom in on her face until it's right there in front of me. A shudder goes through me; it really is the face that I knew in my youth, that I cut out from a magazine; it really is Sonja Savić, and she is still girlish and beautiful. Sonja tells me later over a cup of tea that she isn't doing too well now because there's no work, but she directed three underground films with her friends during the war-years in the nineties, with no money, and she now has the originals on only one Beta tape. The spirit of a systematic organiser awakens in me as I say to her, "We must copy this, Sonja. Money isn't an issue here. You must have a VHS copy of your films as well, and I'll be flattered if you let me make my own tape with the copies of your films."
So Ida and I stayed in Belgrade for another day and copied Sonja's films at  B92 Radio. The films will be screened by Kinoteka, in Ljubljana. While we were making copies, Sonja and I held hands, and it felt as though we had known each other for a thousand years.
So now, Sonja, when the idea of your coming to Ljubljana to show your films has become a reality, I can only promise to take you to the Adriatic Sea.
Maja Weiss

Date and time of event: 
Oct 13th - Oct 15th
Place of event: 
Slovenska kinoteka