Let me say it from the onset: a rare occurrence in today’s cinematography of the Balkans, Atanas Georgiev’s Cash and Marry is a little gem. It is the story of a young man from Macedonia committed to break borders and boundaries and to find a woman in Vienna to marry him and thus provide him with an EU passport. On his quest, he enjoys the assistance of the Balkanites living in Vienna in more or less legalised circumstances.
The film, a scripted documentary, does away with any illusions one might have about those living on the fringes of the fortress of absurdity that the European Union has become. In the case of Austria, where the laws regulating the relationships between natives and foreigners are particularly strict, a vivid underground undermining these regulations has developed, helped by the Balkanites’ longstanding anarchic experience in evading the state and beating it by its own rules. Atanas Georgiev is taking these elements, presumably enriched by his own experience living in Prague, and turns them into an absurd story of a quest for the Balkanites’ Holy Grail – the EU passport, the item, which is supposed to cure all diseases, to solve all problems. Accompanied by his congenial counterpart and fixer, Marko Prica, Atanas dives into the parallel realities of Vienna and applies all possible techniques to find a woman who would be ready to marry him for money and documents, taking more or less useful advice from all sorts of stranded characters. When the ideal candidate is found, it is just more of a cliché – but see for yourselves. Sometimes reality jumps straight into your face and makes these clichés look pale and aged. The author’s sensitivity in capturing this while making you laugh your guts out is remarkable.
The actual tragic of the subject is that people are forced by circumstances to enter arranged marriages – which are illegal in Austria, as opposed to the forced and arranged marriages between residents. This decision condemns people to live under police surveillance, as if they were criminals, and to fake the most intimate aspects of their existence. What this does to people is one thing, what it says about a society imposing this behaviour is another.
The film takes this subject and turns it into a series of ingeniously absurd scenes, in some sort of “Monty Python goes reality TV” approach, laughing into the face of tragedy. This twist is the key to “Cash and Marry”, and will hopefully define its success. In the end, it is the Balkanic view on things, but without the flat, superficial kind of humour that has marked too many recent films from the region.
Foltin‘s music should be mentioned as well. It follows the flow of the story and underlines its absurdity. Too bad that the band seems to forget these qualities in live concerts recently… Oh, and since this is the critical paragraph, I did not like the camera too much. While a video cam as a means of telling a documentary story is legit, the I’ve-made-my-Dogma-homework approach was a bit tiring at times. But not enough to make me stop laughing.
The film starts being shown at festivals these days. Best of luck to the team with it…
Vision! Handful of it, yes…