I got to meet Monty Halls and the crew the previous evening, in the “main square” Maribor. The city has a couple of plazas that I thought could qualify, so of course, I went to the incorrect one first. Having been introduced to a bunch of young men and women who all seemed terrifyingly competent, I watched two soon to be familiar ceremonies: timetable herding and gear packing. Both services must be completed with the proper invocations, or they have no value and must be performed again until done correctly.
The Hotel City Maribor is a perfect place to begin a film shoot, simple understated, great breakfast, a mittel Europ bourgeoise launch pad to the hills across the river. It also represented a bookend, we began in hotel class accommodation and ended with it in Metlika. The pattern set in Maribor continued throughout the shoot. A late night meal and conversation in the bar, little enough sleep, an early breakfast, in the crew van by 7 am for a 7:15 departure, after appropriate offerings to the herding and packing deities.
Maribor railway station is an early sixties white modernist edition, replacing the one bombed in WWII. The antique locomotive out front may well have been the one that took my father out to his point of escape in August 1944. The plan was that Monty and I talk on camera while on the train journey out to the getaway site at Ožbalt. That journey would not be long enough for multiple camera setups and all the other rituals of filming. So we were going on a round trip on a different line through the countryside, before catching the train to Ožbalt.
Ožbalt now has a hydroelectric turbine station, built in the 1960s as its focus. In my father’s time, this was a forestry stop, on a railway running alongside a fast alpine river in a narrow, steep valley. The work performed by the prisoners was to maintain this track, vital to the supply of the German’s southern Russian Front.
Monty and I were filmed arriving. Then there were long periods of scenic shots of how steep and lonely Ožbalt’s location is. The tedium was broken by the lighting of a roman candle in honour of the sound recordist Stuart Wareing’s birthday. It looked a little forlorn, but I had pointed out earlier in the day that the hotel would probably not appreciate it being lit in their dining room (I can be such a spoilsport).
Once all the scenic shots were complete, we packed ourselves into the van and headed to Lovrenc na Pohorju around the other side of the hill from Ožbalt. This was the place where my father met the Partisans, where he danced and drank with them, where he persuaded them to rescue his mates.
We drove through town looking for the AliBaba bar, an improbably named hub for local excitement. There Monty and I were going to toast my father and the partisans with slivovic. We did eventually, but we had to negotiate with another Slovene Ranger first.
We then drove up the hill to catch the golden hour for final pieces to camera before returning to Maribor and the last sleep in a hotel bed for a few days…