A long time before the main motto of the student protest 1996-97 “Belgrade is the world” travelled around the globe, Belgrade truly was the world. And the world came to Belgrade. This was primarily due to its festivals – the theatre festival Bitef and film festival Fest. The former started in 1967 under the patronage of the City Hall and its concept creators and ring leaders were Mira Trailović and Jovan Ćirilov – a coxless pair. They brought the theatre avant-garde to the capital, they destroyed taboos, fought wind mills, their programs – carefully planned for years in advance – motivated the theatre fans to get their finest attires out of their wardrobes and rush for the theatres. She, the iron manager of “Atelje 212”, a “bulldozer in a fur coat”, as they called her, would say: “Let them write about Bitef, even if they write nice things. The moment all negative comments on Bitef disappear, Bitef will be finished.” He, a theatrical legend and walking encyclopaedia, kept going down the well-trodden path for decades after her death and when he had to go, as well, he left Bitef in the safe hands of Anja Suša and Ivan Medenica.
I had the privilege to talk to Jovan several times about the most intimate topics, and one of the frequent topics was Mira. He said that, in addition to his mother, who has of natural significance, the most important woman in his life had been Mira Trailović.
photo: Arhiva Bitefa
“It was a form of marriage without sex. She called our relationship, in French, amitié amoureuse, a friendship in love. She was as attached to me as I was to her, especially since I was, in a way, impossible to seduce or catch. I resisted in every way, first of all emotionally, because I had other friendships that she was very jealous of: my wife Maja, Dragoslav Srejović, all of my loves. She wanted all of my devotion, and I found it flattering that someone cared so much”, Ćirilov told me in his apartment, where the main lodgers were books, thousands and thousands of them. Their quarrels were a daily occurrence.
“I’m not the quarrelling type, but I had to stand up to her, so I wouldn’t become a doormat. But Mira was also very wise: we never parted without reconciliation. These arguments were terrible, once I lost it so much that I took a platter of coffee cups, full of coffee, from the table in her office and threw it at her, of course, aiming to miss. The ceiling was black and she laughed about it, telling everyone how much I cared about her, since she managed to push such a calm man over the edge.”
In his apartment, Ćirilov also kept her bed, like a relic in the corner of a room – he didn’t sleep on it.
„She always combined love and interest. She collected furniture and, when she saw she no longer had room for it all and that she would be suffocated by all those things, she decided to sell me this famous bed. She had bought it for, let’s say, a thousand Deutsche marks and she pawned it up on me for one thousand one hundred, as she calculated the fee for the porters who brought it up into my apartment. She liked it when people said good things about me, but up to the point she envisaged. She would say that I was capable, smart, talented, had good taste – but when someone else would say it or, say, if the papers wrote that about me, she was jealous. She wouldn’t talk to me that entire day, until the evening. She was a strict supervisor of my fame.”
This unusual duo would become an inspiration to all theatre professionals, as well as those that would be visiting Bitef in the following years. That night we talked about Mira, Jovan saw in his mind’s eye all the guests they welcomed with open arms. He talked about how she liked to mother them all, to charm them all, to love them all.
„She really hated those she could not seduce, like Peter Brook or Bob Wilson. They didn’t find her interesting, even though she used all of her charms. In general, she didn’t like those were not talented, but she would do anything for those who were. She never could see the talent in Miki Manojlović. She was always wondering why we loved and appreciated him.”
When this coxless two was joined by Mihiz, the grey eminence of the intellectual elite, the stories that weaved about them became even more grandiose. “The conversations between Mira and Mihiz, especially the erotic ones, are unforgettable. They told each other of their erotic experiences quite openly, something that I, sadly, did not partake in. Once they accused me of being a drug addict and when I rolled up my sleeves and they saw no needle marks, they said I must be injecting into my behind. So I removed my pants. At that moment, the secretary, Nela, entered the room and she was so stunned to see me mooning her. I don’t believe they offered any explanations afterwards.” We need not offer any explanations on who Mira and Jovan were, or what Bitef was. Or what it will be.
autor: Aleksandar Đuričić