Making over One's Own Career:
Cross My Gypsy Heart
Kusturica has, finally, made over his own themes and narrative concerns in The Time of the Gypsies . When asked by his son at the train station if he will return, Perhan looks at him and promises, "Cross my gypsy heart." Of course, like everyone else in the film, he breaks his promise. The complexity of the oedipal situation is thus passed from Perhan to the next generation, setting us up for the conclusion in which the son steals the gold coins off his father's eyes during the funeral.
In his essay on Spielberg's Always in this collection, Harvey Greenberg has explored clearly the oedipal implications of the cinematic remake. For recasting a film that another "father" has produced is both the son's effort to replace the father and, in choosing to use the same text, a nostalgic wish to hold on to childhood and the past. Kusturica's nods to Coppola's films are both a challenge and a form of asking for a blessing by striving to be a member of the cinematic family and business, both within his culture (the former Yugoslavia) and beyond: Hollywood, Europe, and the world.
In addition to such a traditional oedipal situation, however, exists the effort of the filmmaker to remake himself. Thus, we conclude that beyond Coppola and world cinema, Kusturica has "made over" his own films as well.
Thematically all three of his features have been male coming-of-age stories. This is particularly true of the film previous to Time of the Gypsies, When Father Was Away on Business , which won the Best Film award at Cannes in 1985. In that film we see a similar use of magic realism and dreams of flight as the main protagonist manages to "fly" over Sarajevo in his dreams and, perhaps, in reality as well in this tragicomic view of the post-Stalinist 1950s in Yugoslavia, when the boy-protagonist's father is not away on business but in prison on trumped up political charges. Also present in When Father is the actor Davor Dujmovic, who stars as Perhan in Time of the Gypsies . Furthermore, in his first film, Do You Remember Dolly Bell? (1981), Kusturica presents a tale involving sexual initiation of a young male who is in conflict with a number of father figures who surround him, a motif also reflected in When Father and Time of the Gypsies .