A Film a Week - Beanie / Kapa

 previously published on Cineuropa

Wonders do happen around Christmas time in Ljubljana. They might not be something we wished for, exactly, but they still have the ability to surprise us. Santa exists, yet there is not only one, but rather a whole syndicate of them. A dog that falls into our laps as a gift from the heavens might not be the right breed or might only have three legs. And a thieving vending machine might dispense its sweets and also spit out all of the money it had stolen before.

At least this is the case in Beanie, the third feature by Slobodan Maksimović. The film is branded as the first Slovenian Christmas movie, and it has been touring the specialised festivals (and the specialised children’s programmes of the regular film festivals) since the spring. Its national premiere is scheduled for the Festival of Slovenian Film, which is now under way. Beanie has already been dubbed into several languages and will enter distribution in various territories, including its home country, in November, just in time for Christmas.

All Lučka (newcomer Kaja Podreberšek) wanted for Christmas was a baby sister and a puppy. All Erik (Gaj Črnič, also a newcomer), who is also called “Beanie”, for obvious reasons (he always has his beanie on), wanted was to spend the holidays with his parents. Instead, he won the lottery at the home for youths where he lives (and where he is bullied), and the prize was to spend Christmas Eve with Lučka’s family. Their last name is Božič, which means “Christmas” in Slovenian, and this is exactly the joke that the home’s headmistress, Ana (Mojca Fatur), tries to crack.

So, instead of getting the presents she so desired, Lučka has to spend a hygge-style Christmas with her posh, yet absent-minded, parents Barbara (Ajda Smrekar) and Boris (Croatian actor Frano Mašković), and this boy from the youth home who has the strange habit of wearing his beanie at all times. Her initial discontent does not evaporate so easily. When she wakes up in the middle of the night, thinking that she has seen Santa coming to her house, Erik follows her, first in an attempt to prevent her from doing something stupid, then to protect her, and eventually taking the lead in their shared adventure. Christmas Eve in Ljubljana can be scary, but also magical.

Engagingly written by Saša Eržen, well acted and cleverly directed, Beanie could be regarded as one of the best children’s Christmas movies. The concepts it deals with are simple, but they can also be refined, strike a deep emotional chord and tell a meaningful truth (for instance, that kids love their parents even if they are good-for-nothing drunks). Furthermore, the chemistry between the young actors is natural, while the more experienced thesps pull some simple, effective stunts, and the sense of directing, opting for predominantly wider shots to put an emphasis on the atmosphere, while adding emotional significance to the close-ups, is spot on.

Beanie’s technical qualities are also top-notch. Sven Pepeonik’s cinematography captures the touristy and the not-so-touristy Ljubljana in the holiday period, while Jurij Moškon’s editing is fairly seamless. Michal Novinski’s score, using a wide range of instruments and evoking a neoclassical and jazzy mood, follows the emotion of the film perfectly, and the animation and visual effects by Michal Struss are also a valuable addition to the movie.

In the end, kids will enjoy Beanie, while the parents accompanying them should also remain interested in it. One can only appreciate all the effort and the emotion that must have been invested in such a project.

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