Samo Jednom Se Ljubi

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(You Only Love Once/Melody Haunts My Memory)

Yugoslavia, 1981

Director: Rajko Grlic

Production: Jadran Film; Eastmancolour, 35mm; running time: 104 minutes.

Screenplay: Rajko Grlic, Branko Somen, and Srdan Karanovic; photography: Tomislav Pinter; editor: Zivka Toplak; art director: Stanislav Dobrina; music: Branislav Zivkovic.

Cast: Predrag Manojlovic (Tomislav); Vladica Milosovljenic (Beba); Mladen Budiscak (Vule); Zijah Sokolovic (Mirko); Erland Josephson (Father).



Variety (New York), 27 May 1981.

Kolsek, P., Ekran (Ljubljana), no. 6–7, 1981.

Dolmark, J.-M. Z., Ekran (Ljubljana), no. 8–9, 1981.

White, Armond, and Marcia Pally, "The 16th New Directors: New Films Series," in Film Comment (New York), vol. 23, no. 3, May-June 1987.

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Samo Jednom Se Ljubi, or You Only Love Once, refers to a popular song of the early 1950s. But the viewer shouldn't be fooled by the romantic implications of the title. Once more, as in Grlic's earlier Bravo Maestro (1978), the theme of the film is political. Although the figures are all fictional, the screenplay itself was inspired by a young ballerina's diary which was expanded to fit the atmosphere of the times. Grlic has described the scope of the film's narrative as follows:

My film, You Only Love Once, is based upon an authentic event that happened a few years after the war. Turning the pages of private memoirs and official documents of that time, I was struck by the harness of behaviour and relations, by that "social realism" which seems to get reincarnated—although with a step backward and without sentiments—and form a sort of an "image" of today's kids.

It is also important to recognize the collaboration on the script between Grlic and Srdjan Karanovic, Grlic's classmate at the Prague Film School and a Belgrade director. They have, throughout the years, reciprocated on each other's screenplays repeatedly. This collaboration was essential to the process of creating the film, which Grlic described as such: "In researching my project, I had the feeling of discovery of origins of certain current states of mind, which seem born in that transition period from war to peace."

The film tells the story of a small village in Croatia shortly after the war where there is a feeling of hope and promise between three expartisans who are now companions: the mayor, the chief of police, and the cultural head of the town (who is also a member of the secret police). But when an entertainment group arrives in town, Tomislav, the cultural wing of the trio, falls in love with Beba, a dancer from a bourgeois background who is attracted by Tomislav's crude, bluffing manners. Violating the spirit of this trust, Tomislav persuades Beba to marry him—whereupon his new wife's aristocratic family moves in seeking to better their lot in a new society, or at least find a way to emigrate out of their old one. The couple's love survives even when the times change and Tomislav is imprisoned. Tomislav eventually tracks her down in a sleazy nightclub in what is perhaps one of the strongest endings of all Yugoslav films.

The films succeeds in working on two levels. First, as an examination of postwar Yugoslavia trying to find its identity. Secondly, as a study of the destructiveness of human relationships, and the strength of love.

—Mike Downey