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Piran – Tartini – Čap

The year 2022 was declared the year of Tartini, but it is also an opportunity for us to remember and celebrate František Čap, a film direction of Czech origin, who managed to put some celebrity glamour into Slovenian film. The film "Piran, the Pearl of Slovenian Coast" inadvertedly joined the anniversaries of these two individuals. In their own way and through their own art, they both celebrated this coastal town, which, on account of its picturesqueness, has always been loved by film cameras.

Piran, the Pearl of Slovenian Coast

Piran, the Pearl of Slovenian Coast
Screenplay by Vladimir Koch and František Čap, directed by František Čap, camera by Ivan Marinček.
Produced by Viba film Ljubljana, 1965, 35 mm, colour, 282 m, 10 minutes, sound.

Piran, the Pearl of Slovenian Coast

The decision to feature the 1965 colour film »Piran, biser Slovenskega primorja (Piran, the Pearl of Slovenian Coast)« as this month's archivalia was a carefully planned one. Namely, the year 2022 was declared the year of Tartini, in commemoration of the 330 anniversary of Giuseppe Tartini's birth. As custodians of Slovenian film archives we considered this a great opportunity to use the here presented film and connect it to several different people and elements. The film depicts Tartini's birthplace as a realistic picture, and not as a usual tourist postcard, as one might expect. The central and, in fact, the only music in the film is Tartini's famous composition, his sonata for violin titled Devils' Trill Sonata, played by one of the finest violinist of the time, David Ojstrah. What is particularly interesting about this film is that it was directed by František Čap, a famous Czech film director and author of well known and much loved Slovenian feature films such as Vesna, Ne čakaj na maj, Trenutki odločitve, and Naš avto. Čap spent the final years of his life in Piran and this film was the last film that he made in Slovenia. He died fifty years ago, largely pushed out of Slovenian film sphere, despite, or perhaps because of the success of his films. At the end of his life he was reduced to poverty with barely enough means to survive. He is buried in the Piran cemetery and today there is even a passage in the old part of the town, named after him. When officially naming the site in 2005, which coincided with the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Slovenian film, a memorial plaque was unveiled as well.

In his film Piran, Čap managed to intertwine emotions stirred by music, together with a dynamic structure of Mediterranean space, a reflection of a life in the town of Piran and the symbolism of longing, of going away, of saying goodbye.

The film starts in a rather usual manner, by depicting an old oil painting of the town landscape, with the port and the church at the top, with ships and sketches of Piran from different times and different angles, all the way to the town gates. Here the camera moves to the present day of the same town, the only distinction being that now there is a flock of pigeons standing next to the gates.

The core of the town’s safety in the past was the town wall with its characteristic towers at the top, which the film depicts in all their glory, while at the same time paying attention to details.

The third part of the film concentrates on architecture, starting with coats-of-arms made of stone and carved in the front of the palaces of some of the noble families of Piran. Here the film focuses on the colourful exterior, while at the same time capturing the fine details on window frames, balconies and porticos made of stone. The film then switches from palaces to buildings standing right next to the seashore. By doing so, the director draws attention to this connection to the sea, where houses can almost admire their reflections on the sea level. The camera then “travels” along narrow stone streets and passages, and finally climbs up, above typical town rooftops, and then down to the main square, where the majestic statue of Giuseppe Tartini, the greatest among those born in Piran, is standing. By looking at the statue as a whole as well as at its individual details, Čap gives the statue a poetic sense and puts it in the right context by introducing the scenes of violin playing and of the contact of a hand and a musical instrument.

The last part of the film is dedicated to life. Moving away from stone statues and features carved in stone facades of the town houses, the film then captures faces of modern dwellers of Piran. It shows a grown man and then moves to a group of children, who play on the square by the fountain, drawing on the pavement and chasing a ball to the shore, where painters are painting the town, standing in the small port that is bathing in glistering sunlight. There is an image of a local man with a donkey, trying to break through the crowds of cars, of women selling fish, of fishermen working on their fishing nets and their boats. The time of saying goodbye is approaching. Passengers go on board a ship, their friends on the shore are waving goodbye, the elderly are sitting on benches by the sea, quietly enjoying and taking their time, and all the while the ship is moving away, cutting through waves, the town gets further and further away and becomes smaller and smaller, just like in the picture from the old days that we saw at the beginning of the film.

Lojz Tršan