Monday, 20 June 2011

Witnesses


Svjedoci; War drama, Croatia, 2003; D: Vinko Brešan, S: Dražen Kühn, Leon Lučev, Alma Prica, Mirjana Karanović, Krešimir Mikić

A Croatian city near the front during the Croatian War of Independence. Croatian soldiers Vojo, Barić and Joško, kill a Serb civilian, Jovan, at his home. They hide in his neighbor's house, which is owned by a widow who lost her husband in war. When the police inspector Barbir shows up on the scene of the crime, the widow pretends she didn't hear anything. Her son, Krešo, returns from war where he lost his leg. His girlfriend, a reporter, investigates the whole case. However, there was a witness, Jovan's daughter, who was captured by Vojo and the others. Not having the heart to kill her, Barić commits suicide. When Krešo hears about this, he saves the girl and drives her away to safety with the reporter.

Based on Jurica Pavičić's novel "Clay Sheep", director Vinko Bresan made a brave, honest and sincere war drama that tackles the difficult theme of a war crime committed by his own nation. It is clear that Croatia was victim of Slobodan Milošević's plan of Greater Serbia, but one has to admit that even the Croatian side committed war crimes and movies like "Witnesses" and "Blacks" give the opportunity for the viewers to think about these with dignity. Bresan did not fall into the trap of portraying his characters as black and white - just like Kubrick's "The Killing" or Tarantino's "Jackie Brown", this movie shows the sole event four times, each time from a different perspective, which gives the characters subtler nuances and explore their context. However, the characters still ended up rather underdeveloped, especially the pale widow played by Mirjana Karanovic and the bleak inspector, with the female reporter and kind war veteran Kreso getting slightly more room to display their talent. The movie is definitely too long, grey and stiff at times, yet a few original details (Croatian soldiers fighting in front of the house while a dozen geese are walking near them) as well as a touching ending make this a positive viewing experience of a movie about tolerance.

Grade:++

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