Agnès Varda’s Cléo de 5 à 7 follows a woman in real-time, showing her psychological transformation as she faces the possibility of having cancer. One and a half hours of Cléo’s shifting ideas about herself, reflections on her past life, flowing self-interpretations, relentless outbursts of monologues, heated dialogues, and highly expressive images accompany the process.
Od 3 do 22 also follows a woman, but unlike Varda’s iconic work, it is not the fictionalization of a life-changing moment, but a documentation of a day in the life of Smilja Glavaš, a young mother with a determined face and a worker at the Pobjeda textile factory in Zagreb.
Unlike in Varda’s work, Od 3 do 22 does not show the protagonist’s day in real-time, but condenses 19 hours into a little more than 10 minutes. Yet similarly to Varda, Golik shows time as it is perceived by the female figure. In this case, time is not filled with self-interpretation and self-reflection, it is measured by work, leaving no space for a personality to evolve. Time passes by in the repetitive nature of the worker’s actions.
She is awakened by the alarm clock and from that moment, noises dictate her rhythm. At home, it is her child’s murmur that calls Smilja to work, outside it is the buzz of the city, while the clatter and whistle of factory machinery chase her through her hours of labour. Back home the work continues, the child’s sounds are only in the background of chopping, peeling and cooking, washing, flushing, and drying. As the day ends, the ticking of the clock returns and becomes another sound in the incessant chain of noises.
A whole day goes by without hearing Smilja talk, and the lack of speech is not a stylized exaggeration. There is no place for talking in her day, it consists exclusively of work. The monotony of her routine is set to the tempo of a metronome; in order to keep up with it, her movements need to become automatic and discussion or self-expression would merely be a distraction.
Each of her steps has its place in the day and her gestures never last longer than possible. She is not simply in a hurry, but every movement has to fit in a tight schedule and therefore she has to be constantly conscious of time. Each movement of her body is tightly calibrated, she can never allow herself to ponder life; she always has to be alert. When she sits on the bus, she doesn’t seem to observe the city or to contemplate, but rather looks forward to the following moment. Each second is about the next one, each thought of hers is about the next station of the day.
Motherhood is often associated with a similar kind of awareness, but what we see in Smilja’s case is rather the enforced alertness of the worker. Her role as a mother is completely subordinated to that of a working woman, her relationship to the child is about taking care of his needs, rather than giving him attention. She wakes him up, gets him dressed, feeds him, and locks him in the dark house alone while she goes to work. From a middle-class perspective in the age of parenting books and baby-monitors, such a practice appears like an act of shocking negligence.
It was probably even more extreme to see, one day after watching Pedro Almodóvar’s Madres paralelas, a film that shows motherhood and, above all, womanhood as a role that bears the responsibility not only for the child but for the whole of society as well. In Almodóvar’s film, Penélope Cruz is closely watching her baby on a baby monitor. Smilja’s situation encompasses an entirely different culture and society, in which her solution, or the lack thereof, was neither uncommon nor avoidable. It’s integral to this way of life, which is the experience of separation: separation from spare time, separation from relaxed concentration and, most importantly, separation from the child.