Saturday, August 7, 2010

Vinko Bresan - Svjedoci AKA Witnesses (2003)


Adapted from Jurica Pavicic’s 1997 novel Alabaster Sheep, this film offers a difficult, powerful portrayal of the frustrating and ludicrous elements of war.

Croatian director Vinko Bresan utilizes a nonlinear timeline and repeated moments to slowly reveal details about a group of characters. The pivotal moment involves the murder of a Serbian black marketer and the abduction of his daughter. The culprits are three Croatian soldiers—Josko (Kresimir Mikic), Vojo (Marinko Prga), and Baric (Bojan Navojec)—who return to their small-town home and decide to teach a lesson to a Serbian who is profiting from the war. They plan to blow up his house while he’s away, but unfortunately, their information about his absence is incorrect. The result is a quick shooting before thinking about the ramifications, with the young girl as a witness. The story depicts the murder investigation by Barbir (Drazen Kuhn) and appears headed toward a genre picture. Instead, Bresan takes us back to the killing numerous times and offers additional clues to explain the action.

Witnesses’ structure initially seems designed to function as a mystery story where surprises appear with each additional flashback. The level of clarity only decreases, however, as the new scenes reveal more troubling events from the soldiers’ pasts. Bresan intends to portray the bleak futility of war and succeeds in crafting an emotionally troubling picture. The soldiers act as immature kids who have lost an understanding of their disturbing actions. When they consider murdering the young girl, the morality of the tale barely registers within their clouded hearts.

A human figure does appear in Kreso (Leon Lucev), an injured soldier who appears to finally understand the situation. The conclusion offers possible hope, but its weight rests below the predominantly dreary atmosphere. This film moves slowly and may lose some viewers with its shifts in time, but the anti-war message makes it a worthwhile viewing. Bresan offers no easy answers to this type of quagmire, but states convincingly that more killing is definitely not the solution.

with english subtitles
no pass