Information about Raškaj is hard to come by. I could not find any books about her, in either English or Croatian, so I was looking forward to the film treatment of her life.
Unfortunately, I was disappointed.
Instead of letting Slava Raškaj tell her own story, most of the film is told through the viewpoint of Bela Čikoš, the male lead. He is a drunken lech of a painter who is old enough to be her father – and of course they end up in bed. Čikoš is married and their affair causes a scandal.
More of the film is devoted to displays of lovemaking and fighting than it is on any other aspect of her life; it is as if director Dalibor Matanic cynically thought that nobody would be interested in a woman painter’s life unless they sexed it up. The age and power differential between them makes all the love scenes pretty creepy, yet the film strives to make this seem like a great tragic love story.
Čikoš drunkenly reminisces about his love for Raškaj through many long, annoying voice-overs. He is not an interesting lead, because there is no complexity to his character: he has neither any redeeming qualities or any real vices other than drunkenness and cowardice. So much of the story is told through his viewpoint that he feels more like the real subject of the film than Slava Raškaj.
When she dies in a mental hospital, it is implied that she died of a broken heart over Čikoš, when there is no proof that it’s even true. Why would she pine over this drunken lout for years and years? There’s no reason.
Once again a woman’s story is defined by a male, told by a male, presented in a male-constructed framework. The reality of Slava Raškaj seems to be crowded right out of the picture.
There is one moment of self-conscious clarity when the filmmaker briefly satirizes how Raškaj might be interpreted by a modern, capitalist culture. She’s shown posing for a perfume ad.
Sto minuta slave is less enlightening about the life of Slava Raškaj than the Wikipedia entry about her. Go read that instead.