Krivina: Sarajevo Review

Krivina Film Still - H 2013

Krivina Film Still - H 2013

Subliminal homesick blues.

Moody mystery about Balkan post-war exiles is hypnotic and haunting, but refuses to reveal its secrets.

A slow but quietly mesmerizing art house thriller about memory and nostalgia, exile and alienation, this low-budget Canadian-Bosnian co-production is clearly a personal work by the Balkan-born, Toronto-based writer-director Igor Drljaca -- and perhaps too personal, as the story remains cryptic and elusive right up to the final frame. Screened to a home crowd at the Sarajevo Film Festival last week, Krivina is a small triumph of austerity over abundance, making a strong aesthetic statement with its formal minimalism and hushed tone. But the lethargic pace, opaque characters and fragmentary plot will find only a very limited following outside the festival bubble.

Goran Slavkovic stars as Miro, a psychologically scarred refugee from the former Yugoslavia now working a construction job in Canada. Distressed to hear his missing childhood friend Dado is wanted for crimes committed during the Balkan wars of the 1990s, Miro returns home to search fruitlessly for him in crumbling apartment blocks and remote rural farmhouses. The action alternates between the faceless urban fringes of Toronto and the lush alpine hinterlands of Bosnia. A faint sense of dread hangs over both, stoked by the low but ever-present moans of Bojan Bodruzic’s dissonant, ambient score.

In the Canadian scenes, Miro shares bittersweet memories of the old country and swaps caustic observations on immigrant life with fellow exiled co-workers. In the Balkan scenes, he wanders interminably from village to village, mostly framed from behind in long tracking shots, following a flimsy trail of contradictory clues about Dado’s whereabouts. Accounts vary: Some say he has left the country, started a family, or suffered a mental collapse in the wake of wartime tragedy. But everyone in this low-voltage mystery is an unreliable narrator, including Miro. Even the film itself.

Krivina unfolds in an elliptical but elegantly composed manner reminiscent of European art house masters like Michelangelo Antonioni or Nicolas Roeg, but it lacks the dramatic substance to reward the painstaking patience it demands from viewers. Character histories remain hazy, their motivations ambivalent, their connections unclear. Drljaca drops vague hints that this non-linear puzzler might be some kind of ghost story, or at least a fantasy taking place inside the mind of his protagonists, but nothing that adds up to concrete confirmation.

The final scene, overlaid with a jarringly incongruous blast of Balkan heavy rock from 1983, invites a more psychological or even paranormal reading – even so, it still does not clarify all the preceding confusion. Haunted and haunting, Krivina is a fascinating failure, but it suggests Drljaca has rich future potential as a filmmaker of great subtlety and finesse.

Production company: TimeLapse Pictures

Producers: Igor Drljaca, Albert Shin

Starring: Goran Slavkovic, Jasmin Geljo, Edis Livnjak,  Minela Jasar, Nebojsa Mijatovic

Director: Igor Drljaca

Writer: Igor Drljaca

Cinematography: Roland Echavarria

Editors: Igor Drljaca, Albert Shin

Music: Bojan Bodruzic

Sales company: TimeLapse Pictures

Unrated, 70 minutes