Traces is the International Feature submission for Croatia. This subtle, quiet film is about a woman named Ana who lives with her father in Zagreb. They’re the last two remaining members of what used to be a large family. Ana is a doctor of anthropology and she is writing her latest book about local burial customs. She is especially interested in the practice of mirila, in which a measurement of the deceased is taken by using two stones, one at the head and one at the feet. Each headstone is decorated with a unique personal symbol.
When her father passes away, Ana is left alone having to deal with her own loneliness, her own feelings and her own grief. She decides to head back to her childhood home in hopes that a different scenery will bring back happier memories and will help her clear her mind and restart her life. This also gives her an opportunity to further study the practice of mirila.
Mirila are mystical stone markings of a unique funerary cult which conveys customs and beliefs of a disappeared generation and a bygone era. These gravestones are an eternal imprint of the deceased and a unique trace of their existence. As each headstone is engraved with a different symbol, it preserves a permanent memory of the deceased. It’s the place where the soul finally finds its peace.
A trace is a perceptible sign made by something that has passed. Like ancestry, the unique symbols in mirila leave a trail of where one’s family started and all the descendants that followed. When one sees the signs then they know that they’re on the right path. For Ana, now completely alone, she finds solitude in delving head on in these burial customs. It brings her back to her happy childhood, her loving family, and a beautiful past. As she begins to forge ahead with her life, she begins to see these signs all around Zagreb and not just in the mountains. They’re a constant reminder of her lost family. But it also gives her comfort knowing that they’re all around her forever.
When it begins to snow in her hometown, Ana stares at a snowflake. While a snowflake might appear as a uniform white blanket from afar, a closer inspection reveals the distinctiveness of each flake. This mirrors the uniqueness each of us holds, reminding us of our individual beauty and worth.