Dazzlingly made by Emir Kusturíca (best director, Cannes), Dom za vešanje (which is in Serbian)—literally, Home for Hanging—is a gripping, engrossing Yugoslavian melodrama about Perhan, who descends into petty crime to pay for his crippled sister’s hospital care and for the house he wants built for himself and his grandmother. It is also a colorful, intermittently magical, altogether stupendous tapestry of Romany life and Romany dreams.
This being a Kusturíca film, there are lots of animals, including Perhan’s pet turkey, countless honking geese, a drowning cat that Perhan rescues, and others.
Through young Perhan’s story we see a vast variety of human characters as well, some loyal and loving, like Grandma, others vile and opportunistic, like Ahmed, who impresses children into his criminal enterprises. The extreme vulnerability of Perhan, his sister, his bride and his four-year-old son underscores the larger portrait of a vulnerable community living outside familiar society. Perhan’s odyssey, from near Sarajevo to Milan and back again, suggests rootless Romany existence. Perhan possesses telekinetic powers, but these do nothing to save him in the end. Ultimately, Kusturíca’s robust comedy turns into tragedy.
Perhaps the most hopeful events in Dom za vešanje are weddings. However, these also turn into hopelessness and violence.
Given the hardship of Romany life, it is no wonder that dreams figure prominently in Perhan’s life. His dreams of his grandmother—or are they her own dreams? or both?—include an indelible one in which she is tossing into the air a red ball, which supernaturally hangs in the air: a symbol of hope or the heart’s desire.
Much of the film unfolds in flurries of short shots: the formal expression of chaotic, fragmented, combustible lives.
Davor Dujmović, who himself died at 29, is splendid as Perhan.
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