Reviewed by: Mehran Mehrabanpour
Starring: Branko Djuric (Ciki), Rene Bitorajac (Nino), Filip Sovagovic (Cera), Simon Callow (Soft) and Katrin Cartlidge (Jane) | Written and Directed by: Danis Tanovic | Produced by: Frederique Dumas-Zajdela, Marc Baschet, Cedomir Kolar | Distributor: United Artists/MGM
The civil war in the former Yogoslavia has been the subject of many great films of late. Emir Kusterica’s “Underground”, Srdjan Dragojevic’s Pretty Village, Pretty Flame, Michael Winterbottoms “Welcome to Sarajevo” and Jasmin Dizdars “Beautiful People” are just some of the works trying to make sense of what happened. Approaching the 10th anniversary of the war, an Oscar winning, black humoured film by first time writer and director Danis Tanovic approaches this subject fully intending to make a mockery of all those involved which he accomplishes with ruthless precision.
The film opens with a Croatian relief squad heading for the front line but getting lost in the night time fog. In the morning, they realise they have fallen asleep closer to the Serbian front line than hoped for, and get viciously mown down. Only the protagonist, Ciki, and an apparently dead comrade fall into a trench in no mans land. Two Serbs come to inspect the trench, Ciki killing one and wounding Nino (Rene Bitorajac) only after they have placed a “bouncing” land mine under Cikis dead comrade. A stalemate begins to take place when the corpse comes back to life.
The set up is extraordinary in its simplicity and effectiveness in utterly humiliating the various groups that get involved to diffuse the situation. A truce is called by both sides so the U.N. can go in and help the trio, only to have the media badger them for the story. Here starts the ridicule.
The UN peacemaker realises their ineptitude, a mere symbol for the worlds recognition of the civil war. The exploitative media, hungry only for footage, persistent in their harassment and manipulation. The chain of power that all groups must go through hindering any decision, making all those on ground level appear useless. And it is those that have the power to do something here that the film points the finger at. Because they don’t do anything apart from add confusion and mayhem, giving more precedence to press conferences and media attention whilst people are suffering. Of course, if this happens with only a few men, then what of the untold thousands?
Above and beyond these absurdities, the main backbone to it all seems to be communication. Through consistent misinterpretations, language barriers, missed chances for truth to be told, and unreasonable conclusions, the film is saying “Hey. Look, we have a real problem. But the left hand is unawares what the right hand is doing. It doesn’t have to be this way.” There is definitely a strong sense of the frustration that Tanovic feels within this Oscar winning film. And he makes sure we feel it to.
In Bosnian and French with English subtitles. Closest MPAA rating would be “PG-13”. While there are numerous profanities throughout the film, no other offensive material is present.