Will Not End There

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SPLIT, Croatia -- Croatian director Vinko Bresan's "Will Not End There" ("Nije Kraj") is a colorful, at times moving yet ultimately unsatisfying love story set against ongoing Serb-Croat tensions. Despite incorporating what have become staple elements of many Balkan movies -- brash and violent men, vulgar and scantily clad women and festive gypsies -- the title will probably have a harder time traveling out of the former Yugoslavia, or off the festival circuit, than the director's previous films ("Marshal," "How the War Started on My Island").

"Will Not End There" opens with Djuro (Predrag Vusovic), a gypsy porn actor, commenting on how Serbs and Croats are overly complicated before he begins playing his nose, a twangy tune that runs through the film and quickly begins to grate.

Martin (Ivan Herceg) buys a porn DVD from a street vendor, tracks down its star Djuro and coerces the latter into helping him get co-star actress Desa (Nada Sargin). She lives in an alcoholic stupor in the Serbian capital, where her pimp/producer agrees to sell her for 30,000 euros. Martin comes up with the money illegally and takes her back to his apartment in Croatia to what appears to be a platonic arrangement as he asks nothing of her and justifies his actions even less.

Of course, there's a reason to all of the over-the-top antics and gypsy platitudes in the intentionally enigmatic prologue, which is explained as the film unfolds. It has to do with Martin's role in the death of Desa's husband, a Serbian officer, in the recent war. Thrown into the mix are Martin's former fellow soldiers, now petty criminals, who recognize Desa and want her dead before she eventually figures out who they are.

Sargin gives the most solid performance of the film. Adding depth to her role as a decent woman turned hooker/porn actress after tragedy struck, she is a reminder of how few male Balkan directors offer actresses multifaceted roles today. Unfortunately, Herceg is wooden throughout and offers little credibility as a man harboring a guilt-ridden love for years, although stage and screen star Vusovic is amusing as the super-endowed porn actor whose wife thinks he makes his living playing music in the west.

While the plot is compelling at moments, despite an uneven blend of comedy and drama, it gets tangled up in all the dangling threads of a mystery and revelation that ultimately detracts from a very human story at its core.

Production companies: InterFilm, Vans, HRT. Cast: Ivan Herceg, Nada Sargin, Predrag Vusovic, Drazen Kuhn, Damir Orlic, Leon Lucev, Mladen Vulic, Voja Brajovic. Director: Vinko Bresan. Screenwriters: Bresan, Mate Matisic, Franjo Mogus. Producer: Ivan Maloca. Director of Photography: Mogus. Production Designer: Mario Ivezic. Music: Mate Matisic. Costume designer: Zeljka Franulovic. Editor: Sandra Botica-Bresan. Running time: 108 minutes.

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