Friday, February 19, 2016

FCS ’16: No One’s Child

In 1988, a feral child literally raised by wolves had even less of an understanding of the Balkan conflict than Bill Clinton (how did that whole arms embargo thing work out again?), but he will be assigned his respective side just the same. It is baffling to the boy and perverse to the viewer, but it is as natural as gravity to the both the kids and adults around him. His belated education and socialization will come with a bitter dose of irony in Vuk Ršumović’s No One’s Child The Record Man (trailer here), which screens during this year’s Film Comment Select.

Discovered by Serbian hunters in central Bosnia, the boy who will be randomly named Haris Pucurica as an acknowledgement of his presumed Bosnia ethnicity is taken to Belgrade for their own convenience. Consigned to an orphanage, the uncommunicative Pucurica is considered little more than an animal. Periodically, junior staffer Vaspitac Ilke tries to reach the wild child, but only the somewhat older and cooler Zika succeeds in breaking through Pucurica’s animalistic shell.

Unfortunately, Zika’s own unstable family situation will cut short his friendship with Pucurica as well as his courtship of the pretty Alisa. Unfortunately, Pucurica’s acclimation to human society also comes with his first taste of human tragedy. As the years pass and the War ignites, Bosnia will claim their presumed countryman, but Ilke fears for the boy’s safety in the besieged nation.

We know right from the start Pucurica will be better off with the wolves than navigating the war. Still, Ršumović manages to make his points without completely bashing viewers over the head. Frankly, No One’s Child, along with Mirjana Karanovic’s A Good Wife represent the hopeful stirrings of a revisionist trend towards national self-examination in Serbian cinema. There is no way either would ever be possible under the bitterly remembered Milosevic regime.

Denis Murić is rather remarkable as Pucurica. He is indeed suitably wild when necessary, but his performance is also acutely sensitive and surprisingly disciplined. He really does not need language, because Murić has a knack for displaying his inner feelings on his forehead. As Zika and Alisa, young and charismatic Pavle Čemerikić and Isidora Janković show loads of future star potential, but it is Miloš Timotijević who really keeps the film grounded as the decent but not necessarily noble Ilke.

It is hard to miss the drastic change in tone when a more-or-less gang of Bosnian-Serbs are admitted to the orphanage and proceed to engage in wanton thuggery. It would be very healthy for the region if No One’s Child were widely screened and debated in the Srpska district, but it won’t be. Recommended for those who appreciate tough-minded drama, No One’s Child screens this coming Monday (2/22) as part of the current edition of Film Comment Selects, now underway at the Walter Reade.