To write an article about (arguably, but not that much) probably the best movie shot in Croatia and by Croatians, is not an easy task. Not because it has so much trivia (because it doesn’t) but because it is historically, socially, emotionally, and artistically such a complex work of art but so relatable to everyone who had a glimpse of old-school Zagreb between the two World Wars. The success of the movie “One Song a Day Takes Mischief Away” (“Tko pjeva, zlo ne misli” in original Croatian) directed by Krešimir Golik, which is by most conducted surveys the most-watched Croatian movie, lies not only in the excellent performance of the entire casting team but also on the typical Zagreb stripe captured through the location and scenery of excellent set designer Željko Senečić. From the excursion to Samobor, swimming on the Sava river, walking through the Flower Square and Maksimir – this movie is not only the story of everyday marital problems and a small plot that is universal, but it shows the atmosphere of Zagreb captured in a timeless fashion, like a sublimate of old Zagreb.
Although the movie would easily pass in the “retro” section of the most movie categories, taking in consideration that it was released in 1970 and depicts the mid-30s era in Zagreb through the eyes of a middle-class family and their son Perica, this movie is so easy to watch no matter your age, generation or knowledge of history and Croatian culture. Why? Because it talks through this childish voice of Perica and sees the world around him just as any kid would. And the plot is truly family-friendly and holds some universal messages like the strange ways of life, family values, and being kind to others.
So what is the plot about?
Zagreb, mid- the 1930s. On Sunday, Mrs. Šafranek and her sister Mina will meet the distinguished gentleman of Mr. Fulir in Zagreb. In a manner of today’s street style photography, he photographed Mrs. Šafranek who he likes at first glance. Already on Tuesday, Mr. Fulir stopped by the home of Mrs. Šafranek to show her the photos, and subtly tries to charm Mrs. Šafranek although she is a married woman.
On the way out of the stumbles upon her husband Franjo Šafranek who invites him back to several glasses of wine.
Without suspecting that Mr. Fulir is interested in his wife, he intends to have his sister-in-law, Mina, married to Mr. Fulir as he can’t stand his unmarried sister-in-law coming to their home almost every day. The plot detangles and little Perica watches all that from a very childlike and simplified perspective.
Subtitled as a “love comedy with singing,” the film is structured in the form of a diary with the inscription of the day of the week. Most of the events take place in the Upper Town apartment of the Šafranek family and in their yard, where the neighbors are witnesses to all happenings, and at famous Zagreb excursion sites: Samobor, Maksimir, and Sava Bath.
Precise scenographic and costume reconstruction and use of authentic Upper Town locations, functional camera, and extraordinary acting achievements, all resulted in one of the most-watched Croatian movies in history.
The film features extremely elaborate characters, each of which has a romantic element: Mr. Šafranek’s imagination of the world events, his wife who reads love novels, Mr. Fulir as a man of gallant manners, and Mina is a spinster who imagines having a handsome husband.
You will hardly find a Croat that hasn’t watched this movie at least once in their lifetime. It may have been almost 50 years since the movie came out but the public seems to love it more and more. Generations of children grew up watching this classic and keep transferring the “One Song a Day Takes Mischief Away” knowledge to their own children.
A great message, high-quality production, and cult status- what more can you ask for in a movie?
We challenge you to give this movie a chance and see what all the Croats are into for decades!