Thursday, November 12, 2009


Sutjeska; War drama, BiH/ Montenegro, 1973; D: Stipe Delić, S: Richard Burton, Ljuba Tadić, Velimir 'Bata' Živojinović, Milena Dravić, Boris Dvornik, Ljubiša Samardžić, Irene Papas

Bosnia, World War II. Tito and his Partisan fighters are resistance members against the occupying Nazi Axis powers. Despite the fact that they are outnumbered and outgunned, they start a fight against the Axis powers in Sutjeska. Numerous other people are caught up in the conflict, among them a man who lost all his children in war, a Dalmatian lad who dies, Vera and her husband Commander Nikola. Four British representatives meet Tito to give him British support for his fight against the occupiers, but are unable to provide him with any backup. However, Tito and his Partisans manage to cause heavy casualties against the Axis powers in Sutjeska.

Whatever anyone’s opinion about the former Yugoslavia, everyone has to admit that they made a run for their money when they produced some extravagant films during that time. Among the most most expensive - and strangest – of those “epics made in Yugoslavia” was the World War II film “Sutjeska” that was shot in 1973 to mark the 30th anniversary of the Battle of Sutjeska, starring – Richard Burton as Tito! Watching and listening Burton’s English dubbed into Serbo-Croatian is as bizarre as if a Chinese film crew would come to the US to make a film about Roosevelt starring Chow-Yun Fat. “Sutjeska” is a rather black and white story where Germans are demonized while the Partisans are idealized practically into superheroes.

One of the most naive examples is the one where a couple of Nazi commanders are flying in a plane above the Sutjeska area and queue all the Axis power divisions that have surrounded it: the Prince Eugen Division, the Bulgarian Division, the Italian Division…Then the commander and his subordinate exchange these lines: “How many fighters do we have?” – “120,000” –“And how many fighters do Partisans have?” – “20,000” –“So, it’s a 6:1 ratio!” he adds, just to emphasize the superiority of the Partisans who are going to win at the end. Of course, Tito does all the talking, while the Partisans do all the fighting. One of the most elevated Tito’s monologues comes when the British representative informs him that Britain won’t be able to send any planes or other military help during his fight, upon which he says: “Maybe it’s even better this way! Then we won’t have to owe anything to anyone!” The quiet propaganda and obvious “partisan” tones don’t make the film anymore better today than during its premiere, yet the great action sequences, realistic costumes and equipment, from tanks to war planes, majestic landscapes, thousands of extras traversing in a queue across the hills and the enthusiastic touch make this cult film for a layer better than other examples of its genre.


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