Sunday, November 21, 2010

Harrison's Flowers

Harrison's Flowers; War drama, France, 2000; D: Elie Chouraqui, S: Andie MacDowell, Adrien Brody, Brendan Gleeson, David Strathairn, Elias Koteas, Alun Armstrong, Caroline Goodall, Diane Baker, Gerard Butler

New Jersey, October '91. Sarah is happy when her husband, Harrison, returns home after another assignment as a reporter for Newsweek. Because of his frequent absence, he feels that his children are neglected, so he decides to quit. Still, his boss persuades him into one last assignment; to cover the Croatian War of Independence. After Harrison disappears in Vukovar, Sarah travels there because she thinks he is still alive. She meets reporters Marc and Kyle as they travel ever further towards eastern Croatia. At Vukovar, they witness how Serb extremists are killing Croats and Serb pacifists. Kyle is killed too. In the hospital, Sarah discovers Harrison alive, but wounded. They manage to return home.

Not counting documentaries, "Harrison's Flowers" is the best film about the siege of Vukovar, the "Grozny of Croatia", in the 2000s. A couple of moments turned out heavy handed; some due to occasional artistic omissions and some due to budget constraints, yet as a big picture the film is remarkably accurate in portraying the event in question that can rarely be found as the main topic in films outside the former Yugoslavia. The first third of the film, which shows the disjointed life of a reporter, Harrison, since he is always away from home and his family, quietly builds elegant drama with a few humorous touches - for instance, after he returns home, his wife Sarah obviously "missed him". The next day, she goes to work and the employees in the building constantly mention how she looks "tired", "worn out", how "she should take a day off", until one guy finally brings it up: "Is Harrison back home?", upon which she gives them a sign that they should give her a break already upon which they all burst in laughter. The war segment, which starts some 40 minutes into the film, is well directed and rather well assembled. Andie MacDowell is solid in the dramatic role of Sarah, who is looking for her husband, whereas the film offers Adrien Brody in one of his early roles, as the reporter who accompanies her through the enemy lines, already showing his acting talent. The finale is hastily resolved and rather messy, especially since it is difficult to believe that the three protagonists could observe Serb paramilitary killing people in Vukovar at such close distance without a problem, yet director Elie Chouraqui showed a sure hand.


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