Friday, April 27, 2018

SHOULD I READ IT? Pretty Village, Pretty Flame (1996)

                “Pretty Village, Pretty Flame” is a Serbian film about the Bosnian War.  It was directed by Srdan Dragojevic.  It was very popular in Serbia. It is based on a true story and attempts to explain why groups of Serbians turned against each other.

                The movie opens with the dedication of a tunnel connecting Bosnia with Herzegovina.  The ribbon cutter slices himself and bleeds profusely.  Rather crude foreshadowing, no?  Nine years later, two best friends stand in front of the abandoned tunnel entrance, but refuse to go inside because they are afraid an ogre is inside.  A metaphorical ogre, yes. Milan is a Bosnian Serb and Halil is a Bosniak Muslim. Would you believe they end up on opposite sides of the conflict?

                The plot is nonlinear, but is structured around Milan and some comrades being trapped in a tunnel under assault from Bosniak Muslims that include Halil.  The movie flashes back to life in Yugoslavia before the conflict and forward to Milan in a hospital.  The tunnel scenes are basically of the frontier fort under Indian attack variety.  Milan’s comrades are a heterogeneous lot.  They include a criminal, a druggie, a teacher, a family man, and a female reporter.  Apparently, Serbian filmmakers are aware of small unit tropes.  Naturally, this dysfunctional group gets picked off one by one.

                “Pretty Village, Pretty Flame” is an interesting little movie.  It effectively depicts the insanity of a civil war.  Neighbors turn against each other.  Best friends can end fighting each other.  War is hell and civil war is especially hellacious.  The movie is well acted and the dialogue is realistic for soldiers in their situation.  The nonlinear structure works fairly well.  There is some character development through the flashbacks.  What keeps the movie from being better are the unreal tactics.  Much of the incidents in the tunnel defy reason.  For example, the trapped group do not flee deeper into the tunnel and the attackers do not attack after dark or use the RPGs that they clearly have.  But hey, what fun would it be if the defenders were wiped out quickly?
                Should you read it?  Don’t put it high on your TBW list, but get around to it someday.

GRADE  =  B-

1 comment:

  1. In real incident tunel was not finished (so impossible tu retreat further into it), and it also made a pretty strong turn that made direct fire into it a problem. Also, some of those little vignettes of Bosnian war were done by small arms only - both sides lacking any heavier weapons (usually due the fact they were just village militia, often armed with hunting or old weapons).

    However, while it is a war movie, it is also an ode, or maybe better described as a swan song to a Yugoslav cinematography, especially "partisan" genre. Even actors play their "most common" role that made them famous, but grown up, and more cynical and realistic:
    Dragan Bjelogrlic (Milan) - tribute to the one of his first roles, Sava Jovanovic Sirogojno, from this movie:
    Nikola Kojo (Velja, a criminal) - his archetypical "crook", basically from this series but grown up:
    Dragan Maksimovic (Petar - teacher) - his archetypal role from a children TV program
    Zoran Cvijanovic (Brzi - junkie) - again, from a same series as Kojo:
    Milorad Mandic Manda (Viljuska, guy with a MG) - he did not act any of his particular roles, he acted out himself IRL - when a war started he became hard-core patriot and nationalist but grew very jaded with war as it went on.
    Velimir Bata Zivojinovic - any of his archetypical roles of WW2 partisans. He had quite a filmography...
    Etc. Basically every actor did so, while some of the roles were "typecast" of the other well known Yugoslav actors.

    Unfortunately due the some disagreement about production movie was cut somewhat, about 15-25 minutes of dialogue was dropped (one of those explains Confederate flag that is featured prominently, other giving more insight into the teacher's past).
    PS. - Movie also has a short scene of M18 Hellcat firing live ammo.


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