Goodbye, 20th Century! (review)

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Mad Macedonians

I don’t get it.

I’m not afraid to admit it. I just don’t get it.

Picture these two young Xers, Aleksandar Popovski and Darko Mitrevski. They grew up in Macedonia, but it could have been anywhere. They read a lot of comic books as kids, I’m sure, and watched a lot of science fiction movies. And, I imagine, one day they said to each other, Hey, we could do that. And the result is Goodbye, 20th Century!
Are there any other Macedonian science fiction movies? Are they all like this?

George Miller is obviously a favorite of these two. Goodbye opens in 2019, post some unspecified apocalypse that has killed all the trees (though we see trees in a later scene set at this time, so I’m confused here). The medieval biker look is all the rage, as it typically is in postapocalyptic sci-fi movies. A priestlike dude (Dejan Acimovic) in black leather is leading the execution of Guzman (Nikola Ristanovski), rather the pirate in his long flowing white shirt and with his long flowing dark locks. Apparently, Guzman did something nasty with a religious fresco, which his townspeople think is responsible for the sudden deaths of all their children. Now, though, for some unclear reason, Guzman is “blessed by eternity” and cannot be killed, despite the numerous bullets emptied into him.

It gets more incomprehensible.

A self-described “prophet disguised as a barber” (Vlado Jovanovski) tells Guzman that he must find the wall on which is written the fate of mankind, so that he can find out what he needs to do so that he can die. And he does, and is quite upset by what he reads. Then we jump back to 1919 for a brief interlude that is meant to enlighten us as to why Guzman has sex with his sister (Sofija Kunovska) in a bathtub full of apples.

Is this all steeped in Macedonian myth and folk tales? I have to wonder if there’s some sort of subtext at work here, because it really makes little sense on its surface.

We then jump to New Year’s Eve, 1999, for a funeral wake of a character we’ve never met. A lot of strange people dressed in black sit around an all-white room. A little David Lynch, a little Stanley Kubrick (but without the discipline of either of these influences), this almost stream-of-consciousness corner of the movie devolves from awkward family interaction to an orgy of violence, all witnessed by a man in a Santa Claus costume (Lazar Ristovski), who is apparently quite upset by the scene.

I was dumbfounded to learn from the publicity material for Goodbye, 20th Century! that “this is a film about the merry Santa Claus who in rage destroys our world.” Never in a million years would I have guessed that it was Santa, here in 1999, that wreaked the havoc that created Guzman’s Mad Max world. I’m still trying to figure that one out.

Goodbye is, admittedly, strangely hypnotic in parts. At Guzman’s aborted execution, two spooky chicks in long robes pantomime grief, cackling prayers, each of them holding up masks like the ones they wear, so that it looks like it’s six women praying. Later, a woman who brings to mind the bride of Frankenstein sings “Ave Maria” in an abandoned concert hall, for no reason we’re made privy to, but the effect is interesting.

Surreal and weirdly funny in spots (though this is probably unintended), Goodbye 20th Century! nevertheless feels like it was made by a couple of precocious 13-year-old boys obsessed with incest and bullets and splattering blood. This is strictly for those who like their science fiction with a lot of style but very little substance.

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