Friday, December 07, 2007

Grbavica: The Land of My Dreams (2005)* *

Grbavica (link to DVD at Amazon)

****warning: this review is going to reveal the main plot twist****

I have yet to see a movie concerning the Bosnian War that is not flat out depressing. This one is no exception. The film starts with a meeting of a women's support group for women traumatized by the war. Mainly the women just sit there silently -- they get paid to come whether or not they speak. But their faces are frozen pictures of depression and brokenness. The camera zooms in on one middle aged woman -- like the others, her face is numb and her eyes dull.

Over the next hour, we see her difficult life as the single parent of a rebellious teenager. As we watch the ho-hum drama of daily life, the scars of the war are everywhere. The mother, Esma, takes on a job as a waitress to make extra money for a field trip for her daughter, Sara. There she meets a man who recognizes her. Turns out they had both been visiting the morgue to look at the exhumed bodies in search of their fathers. He is now a body-guard but had been a medical student before the war changed everything. At school, the kids whose fathers were killed in the war get a discount on the field trip. On and on, the signs of the war are everywhere.

Esma has always told Sara that her father was killed in the war. Sara is beginning to question this story. Sara and Esma argue incessantly about this and that. In one particularly ugly argument, Sara challenges her mother about her father. In her anger, Esma tells Sara the truth. She is the unwanted bastard child of the camps. The result of the nightly rapes that her mother suffered while at the camp. Once Esma tells the truth, the dam has been breached and the rest spills forth. How she would beat her belly to try to kill the she wanted to abandon Sara at the hospital, but her milk came in and to relieve it she nursed Sara and then could not abandon her.

Ug. To the movie's credit, it does not end predictably with the daughter blowing her brains out. What has happened has happened and life simply goes on. The truth is cathartic in the end for both, and the film ends on the happiest note possible, I suppose. Meaning life goes on. Happiness is perhaps no longer in the cards for the characters, but the weight of the terrible past is lifted slightly.

I gave the movie 2 stars since it was really painful to watch and Kaja would have berated me if I gave it more stars (he hated the movie). The acting however is good. Watched on Netflix Instant Viewing.