Monday, 25 July 2011

Sarajevo, Day 3

"There are three things we're known for: killing Franz Ferdinand, the Winter Olympics of '84, and the siege' said our guide, Mohammed, as we set off on a tour of the tunnel built during the war in order to smuggle weapons into the city. Although Sarajevo is now a bustling metropolis, with a world-class film festival, the spectre of the war is on every street, with the scars visible on almost every wall and sidewalk.

From 1992 till 1996 the city was under siege, and 11,000 people were killed from the snipers, shelling and bombing from the Serbian forces. While the complex politics of that conflict still escape me, it was clearly a humanitarian disaster right in the heart of Europe. The Festival started in the middle of that siege, both as defiant gesture and effort to regain normality, and has grown ever since. That gives this film festival a special quality not found elsewhere.

Before we set off on that tour we experienced MELANCHOLIA, Von Trier's latest provocation. The cinema we saw it in was so full, there were dozens of people sitting on the floor and the aisles. Enough to make any health-and-safety conscious cinema manager shudder. But it certainly added a certain 'gig' like atmosphere to the screening. The opening doesn't disappoint - a combination of spectacular cinematography and special effects combined with classic Von Trier family dynamics. But the ambitious storyline and science fiction elements come off the rails in the second half and I was left cold in the end. It seems Von Trier doesn't take his storytelling seriously, and really doesn't have a lot of respect for the audience. Comparisons to TREE OF LIFE are certain to emerge.

We also saw, as part of the competition, AMNESTY, an Albanian feature which, again, I shan't review as I need to judge it. Today, apart from my obligatory competition homework, I'll be watching documentary CINEMA KOMUNISTO, about the Yugoslavian film industry.