Friday, 23 January 2009

Armin


Armin; Drama, Croatia/ Germany/ BiH, 2007; D: Ognjen Sviličić, S: Emir Hadžihafizbegović, Armin Omerović, Jens Münchow, Marie Bäumer, Barbara Prpić, Borko Perić

The teenage Armin and his dad Ibro take a long trip from some Bosnian village to Croatia's capital Zagreb, where Armin is suppose to do an audition for a small role in some German war movie. On their way, the bus breaks down, but they manage to arrive to the hotel in Zagreb thanks to hitchhiking. They spend the night in the hotel and tour the town, until the movie assistant tells them Armin is too old for the part. But dad doesn't give up: he storms the office of the director and persuades him to listen to Armin's Harmonica. But because of the pressure and his sickness, Armin collapses. Just as they are about to leave, the director offers to make a documentary about Armin's sickness caused by war trauma, but his dad rejects it. Then they return home.

In numerous movies, the viewers are already accustomed to the fact that in showbuisness the main actors, producers and directors are the most important crew members working on a movie, while the extras are all side characters. But in this humorous drama by Ognjen Sviličić, that concept is reversed since it offers a new perspective, the one where the story follows the difficult task of people just trying to become extras, while all the main actors and directors are just side characters. Even though it won numerous awards at various film festivals, „Armin“ isn't that great of an achievement – true, it's very smooth, polished and measured, completely outside all those tedious Croatian movies from the 90s, yet it's minimalistic story is so thin and so thinly developed that it doesn't manage to completely dazzle the viewers. The general rule in minimalistic movies is, that when there are long spaces between when something happens, that something has got to be really smashing, an event with a great punchline that makes us forget all the „empty“ scenes in between, yet in „Armin“ all those punchlines are rather lukewarm, like let's say the scene where dad has difficulties figuring out a hand dryer in a toilet.

One of the most logical developments in the story is the subplot where in panic dad tries to „make connections“ with anyone from the movie crew in order to somehow get Armin a small role in the film, which results in tragicomic situation where he has a fake „conversation“ with a German technician at a bar, even though he doesn't speak a word of German. And the character study goes a full circle where the author sums up beautifully the trauma of war by simply leaving some things unsaid in the scene where dad rejects the offer from the director to make a documentary about Armin's sickness caused by war trauma in his childhood: dad never talks about it, but by putting it aside and trying to make Armin live a normal life, protecting him from exhibitionism, he says everything that is needed to say about that difficult subject, even more than some explicit approach someone else would have taken. For a change, it's nice to see a movie about people who don't have to win at the end just be winners in life.

Grade:++

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