Papagajka is simultaneously a gorgeous and confusing mess of a movie. Written and directed by Emma Rozanski, Papagajka stars Susanna Cappellaro as Tasya, a woman who comes to an apartment building where Damir (Adnan Omerović), a recluse security officer, works and lives. She asks to stay at his apartment for the night since her handbag was stolen and with it her friend’s address where she was going to stay. This is later shown to be not true. She then gets sick, suddenly losing her memory. After this, the movie becomes increasingly surreal, with little happening and nothing that makes much sense. Throughout, Tasya slowly takes over more and more of Damir’s home and life.
There is a lot of surreal imagery in the movie, so understanding the thematic intent of the film is a step towards understanding what is going on in the narrative. The clearest indicator of such is the title Papagajka, which means ‘the parrot’ in English. Viewing the movie as someone parroting or copying somebody else, there is a throughline for the actions. The major problem is that it did not answer one simple question, “Why?” Why did Damir let Tasya take over his life? Why did Tasya fall ill, or feign it? Why is she parroting Damir? The actions undertaken in the narrative were utterly arbitrary.
“…Tasya slowly takes over more and more Damir’s home and life.”
Because of this, the characters never developed, and I never connected with their struggles. I was confused as to whether Tasya is a psychological manipulator, a supernatural being, a figment of Damir’s imagination, or something else. The lack of character development created an ambiguous narrative not out of complexity or mystery, such as the flawed but far more effective The Innocents or Last Year At Marienbad, but a lack of thematic and emotional depth.
The dialogue was also generally weak. It was a bold move to have very few lines of dialogue, but what was there was too ambiguous and esoteric to be believable. A perfect example is when Tasya randomly asks Damir, “If we could swap parts of our brains, what part would you want?” This line on its own is not bad, but since it came out of nowhere and I had no understanding of Tasya’s wants and needs, it had an unintentionally absurd and comical effect on me.
"…a powerful aesthetic, but without an emotionally resonant narrative core..."