Ognjen Svilicic / 2014, Venice, Karlovy Vary, Busan, Dubai, Istanbul, Palm Springs, Sarajevo, Seattle, Sydney / 78’
These Are The Rules centers on the habits and attitudes of a Croatian family when forced to confront a horrible tragedy. Maja and Ovo are close to retirement, scraping by on their meager earnings; their teenage son Tomica is unemployed, having just graduated high school. One day and for seemingly no reason at all, Tomica is brutally attacked. Things seem to check out during a hospital visit— in little time, however, the boy's injuries reveal themselves to be grave. Tomica collapses and slips into a coma, his parents left to combat a system that demonstrates hardly any regard for them at all.
Croatian filmmaker Ognjen Sviličić's fifth feature film draws inspiration from a high-profile 2008 incident in which Luka Ritz, an 18-year-old Croatian high school graduate, died of injuries sustained in a seemingly senseless attack by a group of teens. Shot with attention to naturalism, the disparity between a parents' generation with that of their child, and the indifference of institutions to the lives of ordinary citizens, These Are The Rules offers a sharp portrait of contemporary Croatian society. These Are The Rules premiered at Venice, where Emir Hadzihafizbegovic won Best Actor (Orizzonti); Stockholm, where it won Best Cinematography and where both Hadzihafizbegovic and Jasna Zalica took home Acting Prizes; and Warsaw, where Ognjen Sviličić won Best Director.
"Profound sensitivity and a masterful consequence in displaying the human struggle against bureaucracy and indifference"
- Warsaw International Film Festival 2014, Jury Prize Statements
"A melancholy familial and social drama told with compelling restraint... this sobering, slow-burn domestic drama shows an impressive rigor in the economy and austerity with which it observes the rippling aftereffects of senseless violence in a world of bureaucratic indifference"
- David Rooney, Venice Review, The Hollywood Reporter
"Personal tragedy is effectively welded to social criticism in the small but powerful naturalistic drama These Are The Rules"
- Alissa Simon, Karlovy Vary Review, Variety
"A modest work of quiet desperation, but it's obvious restraint and slow unwinding has a powerful, unsettling and ultimately moving effect"
- John Bleadsdale, Venice Review, CineVue
"A slow-burning, minimalistic yet naturalistic family drama... the overall nuanced style stripped of melodrama accumulates the suffocating dread near to Haneke's brand of civil horror"
- Martin Kudlac, Istanbul Review, Screen Anarchy