Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Canadian Front ’13: Krivina

A Bosnian immigrant is not overly enamored with his new Canadian residence.  His feelings towards his homeland are even more complicated.  It will be a strange homecoming for the dispossessed wanderer in Igor Drljača’s Krivina (trailer here), which screens during MoMA’s tenth annual Canadian Front film series.

A wartime immigrant, Miro’s travels took him to Toronto, by way of Montreal, Germany, Venice, and Croatia.  Venice was an especially eventful leg of his journey, for reasons he is reluctant to discuss.  In need of closure, a sense of belonging, or perhaps both, Miro has returned to Bosnia in search of his old friend Dado.  Formerly a shy Bosniak kid, Dado was profoundly changed by the war.  Still considered a war criminal, Miro’s former chum apparently lives as a fugitive in the hills, receiving furtive assistance from the remaining old-timers.  Or perhaps not.  The truth of Dado’s fate is rather slippery, no matter how hard Miro tries to get his hands around it.

The basic premise of Krivina could make a great thriller, sort of like a Balkan Third Man.  However, this is not that film.  Instead, Drljača presents a cerebral meditation on how war fractures not just countries, but relationships and personalities.  There are ample scenes of Miro’s back as he trudges along country roads in search of his ambiguous friend.  Eventually, writer-director-producer-co-editor Drljača ventures into somewhat surreal terrain, but since he maintains the same cold, quietly austere tone, viewers really need to watch closely to notice the pivot.

In many ways, Krivina is more like watching a psychoanalysis session for the Bosnian Diaspora than a dramatic film.  While the product of a Canadian company and a director now residing in Canada, the TIFF-selected Krivina still feels like a bit of an outsider in this year’s Canadian Front.  It certainly does not romanticize the Canadian émigré experience or the conduct of Canadian peacekeepers during the Bosnian War.

Nonetheless, Goran Slavković brings a brooding physicality to the film as Miro.  While not exactly a great thespian showcase, the wild looking Jasmin Geljo gives the film an edge as Miro’s Canadian co-worker, Drago.  However, it is probably cinematographer Roland Echavarria whose work most defines Krivina, conveying the deceptive verdant peacefulness of the Bosnian countryside.

Krivina is a tough trek and it clearly does not care whether general audiences come along or not.  It is deeply personal filmmaking, arguably too much so.  Frankly, for Bosnian War survivors, it might be too cerebral, lacking that big cathartic pay-off.  Admirable for its integrity of vision, it is best reserved for hardcore cineastes and festival patrons.  For intrigued MoMA members, it screens today (3/13) and Saturday (3/16) as part of the 2013 edition of Canadian Front.