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Ravnik turned to the mountains for inspiration. His film, In the Kingdom of the Goldenhorn (V kraljestvu Zlatoroga), tells the story of three young men from different backgrounds who head into the Julian Alps (the home of the mythical Goldenhorn). During their hike, they encounter various locals: farmers, lumberjacks, and hunters. Foto: Arhiv Republike Slovenije

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Capturing the Mountains on Film

Slovenia Revealed
17. July 2017 ob 13:33
Ljubljana - MMC RTV SLO

For the Slovenian people, mountains have long been a source of pride and national identity. Therefore, it’s not surprising that mountaineering helped to introduce a new medium to Slovenia: It was the subject of the first two Slovenian feature films.

The country’s first movie director, Janko Ravnik, had no real background in film; he was a widely known as a pianist. At the time, however, this was no hindrance, since no-one in Slovenia had much experience with the new medium either; all movies were imported.

Ravnik was an inspired amateur and had filmed a couple of ceremonies in Ljubljana. These qualifications were sufficient for him to be named the director of Slovenia’s first feature film.

Ravnik turned to the mountains for inspiration. His film, In the Kingdom of the Goldenhorn (V kraljestvu Zlatoroga), tells the story of three young men from different backgrounds who head into the Julian Alps (the home of the mythical Goldenhorn). During their hike, they encounter various locals: farmers, lumberjacks, and hunters.

The story arc is almost non-existent and the film consists of a combination of scripted dialog and documentary footage. It was an entirely silent film at a time when talkies were sweeping the world. Nevertheless, its 1931 premiere represented something new. For the first time, audiences in Slovenia could see their own people on the silver screen. After a gala premiere at Ljubljana’s Grand Hotel Union, the movie became a sensation among audiences nationwide.

A year later, another Slovenian film – titled The Cliffs of Triglav (Triglavske strmine) – made its premiere. Its director, Ferdo Delak, had far more experience with drama; he had built a reputation avant-garde stage director. Once again, mountains played a starring role, but this time, the movie also featured a dramatic story arc. In the film, a young man chooses to head for the mountains instead of going to a dance with his fiancée. Unbeknownst to him, the fiancée also decides to go mountaineering with another man. An accident leads the two to reunite and fall in love all over again. The lead role was played by Joža Čop, a Slovenian mountaineering legend.

The impressive shots of Slovenia’s mountains were among the film’s biggest draws. They were the work of Metod Badjura, the film’s director of photography. He had been trained in Germany and ran his own film company. The Slovenian film industry was becoming more professional.

Unfortunately, the deepening recession and the advent of World War II stopped feature film production for more than a decade. When the next movie, On Our Own Land (Na svoji zemlji), was released in 1948, it was clear that the early, experimental phase of Slovenian film was over. France Štiglic’s directorial debut, which tells the story of a small Slovenian village in wartime, was professionally made and it won critical acclaim. It was even included into the main competition at the Cannes Film Festival. The Slovenian film industry had come of age.

Slovenia’s first, interwar films did not leave much of a legacy in term of their storytelling, but they represented an important step in the history of Slovenian media. They also serve as an invaluable reminder of Slovenia’s deep-seated love of the mountains and the respect accorded to those who challenge the heights.

Jaka Bartolj

Slovenia Revealed
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