Sunday, April 26, 2009
The Serbian submission to the 2009 Academy Awards was an interesting surprise as not only has very funny moments but also engages you quite fast with the peculiar style of Eastern Europe films that travels so well between comedy and tragedy. But this is a very serious movie that gives you a vision about the terrible and absurd conflict in old Yugoslavia. A vision that to my foreign eyes seems dispassionate as in the most amusing ways and using mainly words, tells you Goran Markovic’s -as he not only directed the movie but also wrote the screenplay- vision of the conflict and he does it in a very informative way especially for those not really familiar with the reasons that originated the civil war.
One of the lines that really hit me was when the doctor says “It would be difficult to make a movie about this war” that basically refers to how Serbs, Croats and Muslims living there speak the same language, look alike and well, were more homogenous than heterogeneous.
But, let me tell you what the story is all about. Set in 1993 when the civil war was really “ugly” and as is quite common allover the world, there are pockets of people –mainly in large cities- that are totally unaware of what’s happening. Here we have a half-dozen theater members unaware of everything that’s happening outside Belgrade that get tempted by the promise of getting paid with hard currency and get convinced to do a tour to the conflict area. In a way is like bringing some entertainment to the troops and the local war-torn population. But their motive is definitively the pay they will get.
Probably as I imagined at this point of the story, you can guess that everything goes wrong and you have no idea of how bad things get; but all the bad things are more with words said, some very dramatic actions and very little regular war action. So, even when is a war movie definitively is not your regular war action movie at all.
I think that what I like the most about this film is the story that really touched me as I found it very similar to what happens in real life civil wars; after all most civil wars in History are the most horrendous and absurd wars of all. But have to say that a story like this one could not be told so effectively if actors performances where not excellent and the large ensemble cast is really fantastic both in cinematic terms as in stage theater terms, as some of their performance moments are really good classic theater monologues. As I haven’t seen many films from this region of the world I’m not really familiar with the actors, but definitively some have to be well known to those familiar with old-Yugoslavia and new Serbian, Bosnian, Croatian, Macedonian, Slovenian, Montenegro or Kosovian cinema.
The movie has good tech specs that really deliver and help to convey the chaotic atmosphere of battle with cinematography mainly using a grayish/fogish palette. The movie won the Best Director and the FIPRESCI Prize at the 2008 Montreal World Film Festival and has other honors in European fests that you can find when you browse the blog.
The film definitively has political tones that have to touch in different ways to those that lived the conflict and surely will generate all kind of reactions in the wide range between positive to negative. But for those of us that were far away from the conflict, the film definitively gives great food-for-thought about civil wars, especially when you lived one elsewhere.
In a way I find this movie not your regular Eastern Europe cinema –even when has the particular style- and I believe that this film could reach wider audiences as comedy really eases watching the conflict and allows viewers to easily understand the director/writer vision. So, perhaps some of my known readers could give the film a try, as I know that you will not be disappointed with this interesting story and fantastic actors performances.
I definitively enjoyed the movie a lot more that I could imagine.