Dir: Joshua Marston
Starring: Tristan Halilaj, Sindi Lacej
The Film: After the fantastic film Maria Full Of Grace, director Joshua Marston certainly placed himself on a lot of radar’s including my own. I was very curious to see how his latest effort The Forgiveness Of Blood had turned out; this was something that seemed quite different. After having now seen the film, it was a huge mixed bag with a lot going for it but certain things just did not quite work for me. That is not to say this is a bad film, it isn’t at all, I just think it is the type that each individual will feel differently with. The things that didn’t work for me, may in fact work for others, and by the end I wasn’t entirely satisfied but still very glad I had seen it.
The film is set in Albania, modern day, and it focuses on a family. By any means this is quite a normal family, children in school and parents working to keep things comfortable. One day however two members of this family end up involved in a murder of their neighbour over a very small dispute. This launches the use of an old code called Kanun, which basically dictates what each family can do. The ones blamed for the murder must live in isolation, the children no longer able to attend school, and the oldest girl having to do her fathers work. The oldest son is also now a target, and his isolation takes a toll on his state of mind.
This is a very interesting premise, it kind of blends this modern law with an older one, and the use of the code Kanun being in place to satisfy the family who lost a member but the younger generation do not play by those rules. It is a look at the old vs. new ways, and basically the stubbornness of the men involved. And they are stubborn; the father who played a part in a murder acts very selfish yet the ones on the other side do as well. It is only the women who seem to try to rise above and do well, but they still feel this sense of loyalty. The women are really the only likeable characters, the men are characters that all deserve to be slapped, and it is infuriating to watch them. I kind of feel this was the point, I am just not sure this was the best way to get the point across. Even the young Nik (Tristan Halilaj) has his moments of stupidity, which made me lose sympathy for him. With so many characters not really being very likeable and not anyone I personally wanted to get behind, I found it very hard to get engaged. However at the same time, the character of Rudina (Sindi Lacej) did engage me and kept things interesting.
I was not a big fan of how this film resolved, I felt it did not really do much of actual resolving. Something does happen, but again the these characters do things that made me want to hit them, but it kind of replaced the sympathy that the character of Nik lost. There are things that did work, it actually has a very strong beginning and the moments leading up to the death are very intriguing and I was glued to the screen to see how they would unfold. The cinematography was fantastic; this is a stunning film to look at, with everything being captured perfectly. From the outside, to the interior of the isolation, there is never a dull moment visually. I was surprised by the pacing, it moves along smoothly despite the fact there are times where much isn’t happening, which places the audience in the shoes of those stuck in the house. The performances are all very strong, our two leads are fantastic and they sold their roles pretty well.
While I would have liked things to be different, I know they are there for a purpose, and what works for one doesn’t always work for another. This is a very solid effort from Marston who directed and co-wrote this with Andamion Murataj. I do applaud the effort to bring light to this country and the people there with this effort. Marston continues to be a very fascinating talent, and I look forward to seeing more from him in the future.
The Australian DVD
Audio/Video: The video is presented in 16:9 anamorphic widescreen. Audio is presented Dolby Digital 5.01 Albanian language, with English Subtitles.
This is one of the nicest looking DVD’s I have seen recently, a great visual transfer, with perhaps the best audio I have heard on DVD this year.
Disappointing there are no real extra’s here, more in-sight into the film would have gone a long way.