DIRECTOR: MILORAD MILINKOVIC STARRING: DRAGAN MICANOVIC, JANA IVANOVIC, LUKA GRBIC, LJUBISA SAVANOVIC RUNNING TIME: 2 HRS 15 MINUTES
The film tells the story of the period of the life of Prince Mihailo Obrenovic just before and during the assassination. It follows the final days of a man in love who struggles with a sense of duty to his people while plotting a fatal conspiracy against him that will stop the liberation of the Balkan people.
The Duke and the Poet is the International Feature submission for Serbia. Mihailo Obrenovic was the ruling Prince of Serbia from 1838 to 1842 and again from 1860 to 1868. After his father passed away in 1860, Mihailo was accepted back as the Prince after 18 years of exile. His greatest achievement was the complete evacuation of Turkish troops from Serbia in 1862. And in 1866 he forged the first Balkan Alliance by signing a series of agreements with the other Balkan entities. To this day, he is considered to be a great reformer and the most enlightened ruler of modern Serbia.
The film takes place in May in 1868 during a one week period. Mihailo is engaged to Katarina, the daughter of his first cousin, Princess Anka. Contrary to what he believed, this marriage proposal is met with much protest from the politicians, clergy and the general public. Mihailo is hoping to gain approval from the local bishop for their union. He is also under a lot of pressure to have a heir. Burdened by guilt over ascending to power following the death of his brother, Mihailo never wanted to be a leader, as he much prefers writing poems and creating art rather than leading the country.
On May 24, 1868, Mihailo’s best friend and daguerreotype enthusiast, Anastas, rushes to the palace over a series of dreams he’s been having the past few days. He foretells Mihailo’s violent death, along with his fiancee, and several others. Anastas has also been taking images of the duke’s profile, but every picture always comes out with a smudge. He feels like something isn’t right, but Mihailo brushes it off, claiming that his people are behind him after liberating the country from the Turks. Anastas begs him to reinforce his army, to stay hidden away from the public, and to always be vigilant and careful. Mihailo though refuses to compromise his life, despite all the warnings.
The film creates a day by day account of the final week leading up to Mihailo’s assassination attempt. The film also showcases the assassins and their plot to kill him. Their goal was to murder Obrenovic and put Serbia in a state of chaos, which would then lead the country into a brink of Civil War. As the Turks and the Balkans were in complete power at the time, the fragility of peace was always a cause for concern. Leaders were getting assassinated, people were seeking power, everyone was nothing until they became something again.
The dream came to an end for the poet who ended up as a duke, whose goal was to create a society with one people, one faith, one ruler and one enemy.