Murina (2021) | Film Review
Updated: Apr 20
When the monster calls you ‘daughter’
By Emma Chen
Imagine living on a paradisiac island in Croatia, surrounded by crystal clear waters, spending your days diving and sunbathing until sunset. Nice, right?
Now imagine living on that island with a violent and manipulative father who repeatedly tells you that you do not deserve better, and that you will remain forever stuck on the island, and with a mother who stands religiously by the rules of her husband and has lost any hope for a better future. Slightly less nice, I believe.
Nevertheless, in Murina (2021), this is the reality for young Julija (Gracija Filipovic) until Javier, a friend of her father, arrives on the island to discuss business affairs. For the first time, Julija sees what her life could be like outside that gold-plated prison, if only she managed to escape.
The contrast between father and daughter is visualised through an opposite representation of the two characters: the young girl, smiling, agile, and strong, and the old father, angry, clumsy, and flabby.
photo courtesy of IMDb
‘Murina,’ the Croatian word for a moray eel, gives the film its title, and is a constant presence. Julija and the murina are inevitably connected: as the latter hides in the depths of the sea to escape humans, the former takes refuge in the water to escape her father. Furthermore, at the beginning of the film, someone comments on how moray eels bite their own flesh to escape from the hook; in the same way, Julija is willing to make sacrifices – and we see many examples throughout – to find a way out of that apparent paradise.
Julija's feeling of claustrophobia is evident during the film, and it creates in the spectator a sense of anger and frustration for not being able to do anything to help the young girl.
I particularly appreciated the representation of violence: not the blatant ‘big bruises’ one usually shown in media, but a more subtle violence, of shoves and shouts, of threats and invalidating feelings. This is the kind of abuse that leads the victim to think twice before doing anything that could set off the violent person, the kind that does not allow Julija to let her guard down when her father is nearby, and that eventually anchors her mother to a toxic relationship, making her internalize that there is no way to change her life.
If only director Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic had dared more, the film could have become a hymn of hope for all those people who find themselves living in a traumatic situation like Julija. Instead, the proposed ending leaves you with a bittersweet sensation and with the uncertainty that one can escape from the grin of an abusive person.