Contemporary Southeastern Europe
Special Issue

Laughter and Tragedy of the Absurd: Identifying Common Characteristics of Balkan Comedies Under State Socialism

  • Ana Grgić
Comedy and comic conventions offer the possibility for laughter as a therapeutic and liberating force, as well as provide reflections on the absurdity of the everyday through the use of humour and chaos. This paper examines how Balkan comedies during the state socialist period used traditional comic conventions to offer critiques of the political and social systems, through analysis of three films: Ciguli Miguli (Branko Marjanović, Yugoslavia, 1952, released in 1977), Koncert në vitin 1936 (Concert in 1936, Saimir Kumbaro, Albania, 1978), and Господин за един ден (King for a Day, Nikolay Volev, Bulgaria, 1983). Drawing on the stylistic and visual conventions of silent comedies, these films create a range of comic characters and situations: the misadventures of peasant Purko in King for a Day, the water fight between musicians in Ciguli Miguli, and the policeman’s mannerisms in Concert in 1936. Furthermore, some common characteristics inherent to the cinema of Balkan countries in this period will be identified, such as the struggle between the value system of tradition vs. modernity, civilisation vs. primitiveness, European-ness vs. Balkan-ness, suggesting that such Balkanist constructs which continue to feature in popular cinema in the recent period, did not disappear but were internalised by the communist ideologies.