The Plaits

The Plaits ★★★

Text by an unknown autor from the Kino Tuškanac website:

Using the observational method, the film describes the knitting of the braid, a traditional hairdo among women in the villages of Dalmatian Hinterland. There are also some scenes of working in the field.

"The Plaits" is a typical minimalist documentary by Zoran Tadić. By reducing the documentary structure to images of braidmaking and farmwork, these two types of work become imbued with a metaphorical meaning. They are metaphors of life's challenges.

The key metaphorical oppositions are those between the intimate and the external, the personal and the traditional. The farmwork represents the external and traditional, while the braidmaking stands for the intimate and personal. Even though the braids are also part of the village tradition, that is, a kind of social creation, the authors view their making as a very intimate and personal matter. Such an impression is created by insisting on close-up shots of a girl who is wearing a braid and the intimate atmosphere of the room in which she carefully braids her work. This is contrasted by the wider shots of the exterior scenes.

Braidmaking scenes are also characterized by the details which reveal the subtlety of the fabrication of the braid and by the dispersed light coming through the window. These features are opposed to the roughness of farmwork and sharp daylight in those scenes. Due to these contrasts, as well as to the penultimate scene in which the girl admires the beauty of her crown of braid as an artistic work, the duality of braidwork and farmwork can be interpreted as a contrast between the spiritual and the physical, the artistic and the mundane. The plaits therefore gain the meaning of something sublime, by the means of which the girl rises above the routine and problems of everyday life.

Moreover, filmologists have noted that physical work is not the only thing that makes the girl's life difficult. Namely, the girl in the movie does not communicate with anyone, and the portrayed villagers are all elderly people. This aspect suggests her loneliness, and so braidmaking becomes a kind of hobby, a pastime that helps her deal with a lonely life. With this in mind, a more sentimental interpretation is also possible. Since we do not see any young men in the movie, the second-to-last shot of the girl admiring her plait crown can suggest her need to point out her own beauty at least in front of herself, hoping that some day, some rural young man will notice her.

These interpretations of "The Plaits" show us how much a documentary film can overcome the purely informational task, even though it may look like a very authentic document of reality. By choosing the right material and using specific stylistic methods, the authors prompted the viewer to find meanings in the documentary structure, meanings that may not be visible outright, namely the contrasts between the personal and traditional, spiritual and physical, artistic and mundane, loneliness and desire for love. For some, such an intervention is a faking of reality. For others, it's a creative act.

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