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A Serbian village is devastated by the World War One. All the males have been killed, only the women remain. Two girls earn their living as mourners-for-hire—they cry at other people’s funerals for money. Death seems to govern everything, and the village, once prosperous, has become a gothic haunt dominated by graves and gloom. When the two women inadvertently cause the death of the last remaining man in the village, the other women force them to go to Belgrade and find some fresh male flesh. Resolved to find men fit to be married, they embark on the journey, followed by the ghost of their grandmother. But once they find the men and bring them to the village, other women want them too. Who will win, and what will be left of them?
TEARS FOR SALE is an ambitious piece of eye-candy with a budget and visuals unprecedented in Serbian films. Highly stylized, it brings to mind a somewhat darker and more erotic Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Luscious period detail and costumes are blended with elaborate visual effects to conjure a unique fantasy environment for the fairy-tale plot, which uses the country’s tragic past as a background for an ambiguously dark romance. TEARS FOR SALE is characteristically Serbian in its mixture of tragedy and comedy, road movie and fantasy, death and romance, and myth and reality, and it represents a fresh vision which effectively merges the local with the universal. Also typically Serbian is the central conflict—obligation to society versus personal happiness, and the resulting clash between the individual and the communal, between selfishness and sacrifice. It all leads towards the Serbian version of a Hollywood happy ending (meaning fights, blood, broken glass and large-scale explosions).
Co-financed and distributed by Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp in somewhat truncated form, i.e. with some fantasy sequences cut, Fantasia presents this film to an international audience in its full director’s-cut glory, formerly shown only in Serbia, for the first time. Take this opportunity to see the softer, gentler and more romantic side of its co-screenwiter, Aleksandar Radivojevic (who also wrote the non-plus-ultra of shock, A SERBIAN FILM), and look for the signs of the same eccentric genetic material. The latter is obvious not only in particular scenes (explicit sex in a hearse, for instance) but also in the overall themes of trying to live in an environment overshadowed by death, and of cashing in on tragedy!