The film would have triumphed as a work that observes the reality of life under the warped nature of humanity, had its conscious ending not screamed for justice. But the filmmakers realize the tenderness hiding behind the broken surface. This is helped by palpable performances led brilliantly by Alma Prica. Her Halima takes all the hurt inside, swallows most of it, and comes out resolutely strong.
3 out of 4 stars
Halima (Alma Prica), a woman in her early 40s, lives with her husband Salko (Izudin Bajrovic) in a small village in Bosnia. It is a beautiful place, and looks blissful, at least from the outside. Halima’s biggest sorrow in life is that she cannot give birth to a child. Salko, a real gentleman, is fine with it. However, for many others, a woman is the source of a child, preferably male. And if she is not serving this purpose, she is useless. That is the way Mustafa (Miraj Grbic), Salko’s brother, sees Halima. Exploring the place of a woman in this society is a theme reflected through another character. This is Safija (Olga Pakalovic), Halima’s niece. Her fault in life is that she has fallen in love with a Serb. When her father realizes that she has become pregnant, he calls her a ‘Serb whore’.
This is the relation that the two communities living beside each other had during that era. Anyone who is not familiar with the history of the region, of the relation between the Serbs and the Bosnians, and the overall context, cannot imagine how bad it was. The region contains people from diverse cultures, races, and religions. The conflicts thus were social, religious, and also political. Safija is a Muslim Bosnian. Her lover, Slavomir (Mijo Jurisic), is a Serb Orthodox. Safija escapes from her father’s anger and settles in a Serbian territory with Slavomir. Her first child is a son. But she gives him up and never sees her family, including Halima, again.
Halima has a child in the middle years. 16 years later, Serbian military picks up Halima’s husband and son. Since then, it is Halima’s struggle to live her lonely life in search of her family. How Halima and Safija’s path cross again forms the rest of the story.
As can be realized, the plot develops unsteadily. Added to this is the complex history of the region. The narrative is thus a disadvantage because it does not immediately welcome the audience, From another perspective, however, the development is an advantage. The reason is we get a hint of what these people are actually feeling. Like we are trying to get an idea of the situation, they too are trying to get hold of the world around them that is slipping away. They did not call for violence. They did not start this war. But they have to make sense of it and get on with it.
In such a scenario, who is supposed to take the blame? The world is muddled and souls are distorted beyond recognition. The result is a future that stands deserted like Slavomir’s car, once glistening, now abandoned and dirty. But there is a future, Slavomir and Safija have three beautiful daughters. They play merrily even though Slavomir cannot see their happiness. The horrors of the war has taken his mind somewhere far away. He is desolate beyond repair and there is a good reason for that. This humanist reason poses the real dilemma for the film. Where to go from here?
The filmmaker realizes the tenderness hiding behind the broken surface. This is helped by palpable performances led brilliantly by Alma Prica. Her Halima takes all the hurt inside, swallows most of it, and comes out resolutely strong. The film would have triumphed as a work that observes the reality of life under the warped nature of humanity, had its conscious ending not screamed for justice.
By doing so, the filmmakers do recognize the nuanced evolution of human nature that certain characters bring. Mustafa is brutal on Halima at the beginning. But later on, when she has lost just about everything, he is kind to her. It shows the adjustments human nature makes on the face of varied circumstances. Years after the war, at a Serbian bar cum restaurant, Turkish entertainment goes on. Slavomir growls to someone that his wife’s name is Safija, and not Sofia. The man replies, ‘does it matter?’
Credits (from IMDB):
Arsen A. Ostojic