Nov 16, 2010
Director: Srdjan Karanović
Cast: Miki Manojlović, Iva Kranjc, Nebojša Dugalić, Rašo Bukvić
Stage: Theatre Dvor, local scenery of movie festival Life
Besa in short: At the very beginning of the World War I, Filip, a Serb and the principal of a gymnasium in a small Serbian town, is summoned urgently to Belgrade to serve in the war effort. He has no one to leave his wife Lea with. She is a young and pretty Slovenian woman, a teacher of rhythmics and dance he met while studying in Western Europe. Azem, an illiterate, patriarchal Albanian, the school custodian, gives Filip his solemn oath, his 'Besa' (in the Albanian tradition: when someone gives their word which must be kept even if they lose their life in the process) that he would look after Lea and see to it that nothing happened to her. Two Europeans, from two entirely different cultures and habits are forced to an awkward cohabitation in the empty school. While the war rages in the background and gets menacingly closer, their interaction develops from hatred, through intolerance, to tolerance and an unusual friendship. Circumstances gradually draw Lea and Azem, a Christian woman and a Muslim man, into a complex forbidden relationship - something like love! More than merely a romantic story, this movie is a paradigm of profound ethnic and class divisions in Europe in the early 20th century which some of them prevail to this day.
Preps: The topic interests me, and there aren't any movies on this lately - Life is the right place to see different movies in all kinds of genres. Since I haven't been this lucky in the past few days, hopefully this will alter my day.
Reality: I am perfectly correct with my assumptions. The movie is a deep insight into prejudicial world as we know it. Cultures that despise other cultures just for the sake of past historical events or even unknown reasons. In balkan area it's quite common to give names to different nations. Or that a name of a nation is actually used as a bad word or a curse word (for instance Bosnian, named so in Slovene area, means something worse or something not honest, same thing as a gipsy. In Serbia, the same goes for an Albanian - they virtually despise them. Historically, the nations mixed among themselves, however almost all of the combinations retrieved hatred or misunderstanding from other citizen, or village inhabitants). No differences in this movie. The relationship (or marriage) between a slovenian and a serbian is treated badly and people don't like the slovene lady. Clasically, they think that she's an austrian spy, that doesn't belong in the environment. On the other hand, she wants to be a part of this society, as she left everything behind. A substory begins as the husband leaves for the war and she is protected by albanian school servant, that gave a promise of honor (Besa) to the husband to keep her safe.
The scenes dwell from humorous (he ties her with a string to keep her near; bringing a goat to get milk to the house; sleeping like a dog beside her door and afterwards, bed,..) .. to very serious and dramatic. She is under rape attempt from two locals, there is army trying to infiltrate as many people as possible to the school, taking all the food and exploiting the lodging,etc.
The differences between albanian and slovene are tremendous. Nevertheless, the movie floats from misunderstanding and hate between the two individuals, to weird friendship and love in the end. There are some limits that can be broken, when the time and opportunity are in place - I believe this is the main theme of the movie, maybe the main idea and the final thing that runs through my mind after seeing this and wondering home to bed. And a deep sigh for not living under these circumstances and living in present. Sometimes it amazes me how people lived in different areas, and how some virtues were grown or treated. This movie honestly shows a real picture of that time and the decisions people had to make or sacrifices. And deeply, it also reminds me of the great hatred that some nations hold for other nations, just because they are different. Strong cast and direction make this movie really worth seeing.
My personal rate: 8,0 (one of better insights that I have seen for the period, embracing differences in opinions, cultures and prejudice. Excellent interpretation, extremely good cast. A bit heavy to the end, or a bit prolongued, however got my full attention)
Besa on Wikipedia
Besa on IMDB
About making Besa - in slovene magazine Obrazi - a full article