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The story of professor Kosta Vujic who in the mid-19th century taught an extraordinarily talented generation of gymnasium students, some of whom would go on to become prominent members of the Serbian society and eventually historically significant figures. They include Mihailo "Mika Alas" Petrovic, Stevan Stojanovic 'Mokranjac', Jovan Cvijic, and Jasa Prodanovic.
This movie was a bit of a surprise, considering it was directed by Sotra who had bored me so much with "Zona Zamfirova" and "Ivkova Slava" – especially taking into consideration the fairly similar comedic and historical aspects of all three of these films, and that they were all filmed within a relatively close time-frame.
However, the very fine choice of actors (Bercek, Bikovic, Brstina, Cvijanovic, Cetkovic and several others), the phenomenal photography and scenography (never better in Serbia – especially for a TV production), very nice music, an original premise, an interesting period in Serbia's history, fun dialog, and the general relaxed and cheerful nature of the film were combined with competence into something quite classy. It goes without saying that this makes "Sesir" a superior product to nearly all of those awful costume dramas, all that hollow chick-flick nonsense that's been coming out of Hollywood in recent decades, infested with nepotist zeros such as Emma Thompson or Keira Knightley. Serbia is neither known for having proper movie budgets nor for stylish productions, so the fact that Americans could produce so few movies that are anywhere nearly as good as this one speaks volumes about the rapid downfall of Tinseltown, at least in terms of quality. (Box-office-wise, Americans will always lead the way because they have the creation of mega-selling garbage down to a science by now.)
Obviously, "Sesir" isn't for movie-goers who consider Tarantino's films the height of artistic expression, or for those who consider his dialog to be semantic art. Nor is it for kids (and child-like young adults) who spend 5 hours a day on PlayStation. People who start fidgeting in their seats whenever 5 minutes pass without someone having their throat cut can also calmly and without hesitation delete this movie from their watch-lists. I don't want to sound like a snob, because I'm anything but, yet I have to warn all those who say "ej brate brate" in every sentence (the Serb equivalent to "yo bro" and "like, stuff") that they will be terribly bored with this film. Brain-damaged football fans and blood-thirsty city hillbillies (an exponentially growing demographic in Belgrade) will struggle to get anything useful or entertaining out of these characters and from the things they say. There are no scenes here whatsoever of characters smashing each other's brains in front of river discos while shouting obscenities and waving with their guns into the air ("j***m te u tri lepe p***e materina" and the like).
I am not referring to the various quotes from Schiller, Goethe etc, of which there are many here. I am referring to the nostalgic, not overly sentimental, and somewhat (suitably) romanticized depiction of a bygone era, one that existed long before Paris Hilton pleasured her first celebrity penis. How times have changed – THAT message could be seen as the most relevant by-product of this movie, amongst all the other themes and points. "Sesir" is about intellectuals, the leading minds from Serbia's late 19th/early 20th century period. The professors are just as interesting though, if not more so; all of them. Fortunately, the decision was made to tell these stories as humorous anecdotes, not as a soppy costume chick-flick drama, as Americans would have done it. I could just see the likes of Sean Penn and Tom Cruise being miscast to play the professors, while the younger crop of even dumber, even less talented Tinseltown nitwits fill the roles of the students. Can American film-makers be trusted with ANY good story anymore?
Some Serbian high school kids will watch this with bewilderment, because they will be shocked that there actually existed an age in which (some) professors and their students had a very friendly or at least cordial relationship, unlike these days when it's hard to measure whether the teachers hate the students more than that students hate the teachers. Of course this is a somewhat romanticized depiction; after all this is a movie not a documentary, but it is based on some documented facts. Those kids with the tiniest vocabularies (from the utterly useless "brate brate" generation) might nervously snicker at this film, trying to poke fun at its expense in their typical inferiority-complex, insecure way. Later on, these kids will wave their Serbian flags at weddings and football matches, shouting "Serbia!", because in this country quasi-patriotism is extremely popular and "proof" of one's moral high ground.
On the other hand, I don't want to give the impression that "Sesir" is something only for the older viewers. Young viewers, at least those that aren't complete morons, will find a lot to identify with despite some obvious differences between the old and the new mentalities, because Kosta's students – although very committed to self-advancement and education – also display a large dose of playfulness and teenage exuberance. Besides, the voters' demographics on IMDb reveal that "Sesir" is much more liked among younger than older viewers – although part of the explanation for this unusual fact is that young viewers tend to give much higher marks than older viewers, i.e. younger movie-goers are less critical i.e. many lack criteria.
"Sesir" isn't perfect, but it doesn't have any notable flaws. Perhaps the only criticism is that the female part of the cast is inferior, as usual (in Serbian movies/TV), but that's hardly relevant since it is the male characters that dominate this story. I do recommend the TV series more though, which I believe includes all of the scenes from the movie, because it is far more detailed hence more entertaining.
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