GOOD LUCK, KEKEC

Director: Jože Gale
Year: 1963
Country: Slovenia

Kekec is a Slovenian children’s character, created by Josip Vandot for a series of novels in the early twentieth century. A brave and clever shepherd boy from the Julian Alps, Kekec’s adventures often involve exploring the picturesque mountains and rescuing his friends from danger. A trilogy of Kekec films were made between 1951 to 1968, cementing the character’s place as a national icon. With his ingenuity, loyalty, and persistently high spirits, this Slavic Tintin has been winning hearts and saving the day for decades.

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Kekec brings flowers to his sweetheart, the blind girl Mojca.

Good Luck, Kekec is the second of Jože Gale’s three Kekec films, and apparently a common favourite among Slovenians. The story features one of Kekec’s recurring villains: the wild mountain woman Pehta, who steals children for an unknown purpose. When Mojca, a local blind girl with a beautiful voice, is kidnapped by the sinister witch, Kekec sets off to rescue her with a song in his heart and his cowardly yet lovable friend Rožle in tow. Together, they must journey across the valley to Pehta’s hut and find a way to free their friend.

Much like a traditional Slovenian potica cake, Good Luck, Kekec is sweet and pure, although occasionally unbearably so. The film takes place in that fantasy world shared by so many children’s stories, where the grown-ups are absent or ineffective, and it is up to the brave children themselves to adventure forth and save the day. Every aspect of Good Luck, Kekec exudes innocence and charm, from the pastoral Eden of the farm where Kekec works as a shepherd, to the catchy tune he sings as he embarks on his journey.

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The evil Pehta leads Mojca back to her home.

Good Luck, Kekec was also the first Slovenian film to be filmed in colour. The fairy-tale Alpine valley is bathed with a watercolour-like palette that adds to the romantic, idealised atmosphere. The film makes a good contrast, therefore, to my previous entry: the Icelandic film Rams, which presented a similar setting in a much starker tone.

The film is a refreshingly wholesome reprieve from the dark, gritty stories that sometimes seem to dominate this blog. It’s a story told in bold, simple strokes, and one that preaches compassion, loyalty, friendship, and redemption. For in the film’s idyllic world, not even the villains are completely bad. Good Luck, Kekec is kitschy, cutesy, cheesy, and at times even borders on saccharine. But it also possesses such a genuine charm and sense of fun, that it’s easy to simply become lost in the fairy tale. Watching the lighthearted adventures of Kekec and his friends, I could almost feel my soul being scrubbed clean.

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