← Back to Reviews

A Wonderful Night in Split


A Wonderful Night in Split

A Wonderful Night in Split will always be one of my favourite cinematic discoveries. Not because it's the greatest film I've ever seen or anything, but it's just the act of discovering it that'll always ensure it a special place in my heart. You see, I found it during the summer of 2019, when my obsession with hidden gems was at its peak. At the tame time, i had zero faith in Croats and our artistic talent. So when I found a croatian film that's not just great by our standards, but actually great with no need for qualifiers, it was, as you can imagine, a pretty big deal.
Another reason this film is so special to me, and why I might rate it higher than you would, is because Split is where I moved to for college. I was so relieved to finally be done with high school melodrama that I began to associate Split with comfort, which coincidentally fits with the tone of the film.

But enough about me, here's why you need to watch A Wonderful Night in Split.

To begin with, you rarely see a movie in which all the individual elements - cinematography, story structure, casting, and so on - blend so seamlessly. As I said, its goal is to create a sense of comfort and familiarity among the darkness, and all the choices reflect that. For example, why does it follow three stories instead of one? So we can see the Split ghetto and its community from multiple angles, as if we actually lived there. All the stories make use of certain common elements - the new year's countdown, Dino Dvornik's concert, a bar, an unnamed bum, the drug dealer Crni (effectively the main character of the film), etc., but in each one, they serve a different purpose. I know it sounds gimmicky, but it really succeeds at giving you the full image of all these things when you see them from the perspective of a smuggler, a debtor and a quitter.

Such a thing may seem hard to make without coming ut with some wonky pacing, but that's not the case at all. Despite, or perhaps because of all these connecting elements, all the stories proceed logically and organically. They segue into one another smoothly too, thanks to how each one discretely sets up the following (e.g. when Nike runs into the american sailors that Maja will be whored out to). The dialogue is a little bit stilted, but it's nothing too bad. It does have its moments, specifically in Maja's story. I loved Coolio's character, and there's a certain subtle, but gut-wrenching line from the old lady. I don't know how to translate it into english, but if it wasn't for Ciguli Miguli and him becoming a monument, it'd be the greatest line in all of ex-yu cinema.
The performances are great all around, with my cousin Marinko Prga delivering the best one as Crni.

Finally, most people's main point of praise for the film is its ghostly black-and-white visual style, and I can confirm that it's 100% justified praise. It works to the same goal as everything else I just mentioned, on top of being drop-dead gorgeous.
Anyway, the bottom line is that A Wonderful Night in Split is a fantastic film, even ignoring my rose-tinted glasses. It's just barely good enough for a
, but good enough nonetheless.