Pretty Village, Pretty Flame

1996, Movie, NR, 128 mins


Condemned in some quarters as fascist propaganda, hailed in others as a brave masterpiece, this extraordinary new film from the Montenegran director Srdjan Dragojevic will be a shocker for anyone who views recent events in Bosnia-Herzegovina in shades of black and white. The fatuously named Brotherhood Unity Tunnel near the Bosnian-Serbian border becomes the ironic setting for a ghastly episode, when a platoon of Serbian soldiers is trapped inside for 10 days surrounded by enemy Muslim troops. Chief among the Muslims is Halil (Nikola Pejakovic), a Bosnian mechanic; among those trapped inside is Milan (Dragan Bjelogrlic), Halil's boyhood friend and business partner. Deftly intercutting scenes from Milan and Halil's childhood, the film periodically flashes forward to a Belgrade military hospital where Milan -- one of the few survivors of the tunnel siege -- plans a final, shocking act of retribution. Dragojevic's film, with a canny screenplay by former Yugoslavian TV talk-show host Vanja Bulic, is one of the first Serbian films to deal directly with the events of the civil war. Based on a real-life incident, it does concern atrocities committed by Muslims -- an unconscionably persecuted group rarely considered as aggressors in this complex conflict -- but Dragojevic and Bulic ultimately refuse to deal in heroes and villains. Graphically depicting the destruction of Muslim property and lives at the hands of Serbian forces while trashing the dangerous idealism of Serbian nationalism, the filmmakers never shy away from self-condemnation. It's a bloody, uncompromising and surprisingly enthralling piece of antiwar filmmaking that pulls no punches and demands to be seen. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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