H-8 – As A Tragedy Unfolds…

Quick Thoughts: H-8… (1958)

Made by Nikola Tanhofer, this is the Croatian film of the series.

H-8 is a film from the Croatian film industry’s first period of significance, their first golden age, which rose from development following WWII in the late 50s. H-8 is in fact considered one of the best Croatian films ever made by one of Croatia’s most important directors, Nikola Tanhofer.

With invigorated and fluid camera work, striking cinematography and some incredible editing that, along with the various elements of sound design, imbues this narrative with tension and a pace that drives us, white-knuckled, towards a pre-determined fate, it is clear why H-8 is seen to be one of the best Croatian films ever made. Essentially a re-enactment and dramatisation of a real-life crash between a bus and a truck that was the fault of an anonymous car driver and resulted in the deaths of many people, H-8 gives character, personality and a human touch to what would otherwise just be an impersonal report in which people are reduced to mere numbers. There is commentary on this approach to narrative storytelling throughout this film, and it is most expressively projected through a question of people – doctors and journalists – making a business out of other peoples’ misfortune. Whilst a doctor aims to stop or reduce the misfortune and suffering of others, the role of a journalist, or a filmmaker for instance, is different. However, no role concerning the suffering of others is simple. So, through the complications that then arise for the doctor and journalists on the bus, the purpose of telling this story is called into question: Why tell real life stories? Why dramatise and make what could be perceived as either art or entertainment out of misery, death and tragedy?

These are difficult questions to navigate through, but Tanhofer does very well in not only making clear the constructed elements of this story (much of what concerns the characters), but also projecting an earnest story that has us invest in tragedy and question our consumption of it. So, by sometimes stepping into the shoes of our characters, and sometimes questioning the act of this stepping, we are made to see tragedy from multiple perspectives. And it is ultimately the seeing, no matter how you assess the ethics of this film, that are shown to primarily matter. And this is what H-8 clearly attempts to represent. To face tragedy is then shown to be more important than speeding away from it, blinded by fear, irresponsibility or a stark absence of empathy.

For this, H-8 is certainly a film worth watching, and maybe with a thought or two directed towards the act of consuming this story.



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