Dominic Ambrose Blogblot

of words: narrative, film and non-fiction

Bosnian war is the absurdist setting for The Tour, Markovic

Film review. The Tour (Turneja) is the latest film by the Serbian director Goran Markovic, and it has been selected as Serbia’s candidate for the Oscar Foreign Film category, 2009.turneja-v

It’s been fifteen years since the war in Bosnia, and no matter how much Serbians and everyone else in the region would like this particular chapter of history to disappear, it keeps popping up, bringing with it the ghosts of suffering and genocide. So, now that Radovan Karadzic is finally going on trial in the Hague, bringing even more shame on the Bosnian Serbs with his antics and resistance, is it really time for a Serbian comedy on the topic? Director Goran Markovic seemed to think so, and he came up with something unique and wise, and at times quite funny.

Turneja, (The Tour) is a very moving and successful film about the comic absurdity of human suffering. Markovic pulls it off by using as his main characters a troupe of clueless actors from Belgrade, so self absorbed and ego-driven that they allow themselves to be transported right to the front lines of the war in Serbian held Bosnia to perform for the troops. They have been lured by the prospect of making some scarce money, but they soon find that they are paid in insults, injury and fearsome misadventure. But in spite of the horror, they are troupers and they will survive. The absurdist theater of war turns out to be a fitting place for these over-the-top thespians, and they manage to bring poetry to the Serbian fighters, and then to the Croatians and Muslims, as well, when they find themselves bumbling about, criss-crossing the battle lines. This is not to say that they learn anything from this experience, or that the fighters have been instilled with the civilizing effects of high culture in any way. The fact is, that no one learns anything in this film, because there is nothing to be learned from the repulsive murderous dysfunction of that conflict. And that is, perhaps, Markovic’s point.

Goran Markovic is an experienced filmmaker whose work has been well-known but perhaps not so well-received critically over the years. With this film, however, he seems to have found his stride. He has found the perfect stand-in for the Serbian people in the street: the self indulgent but good hearted actors who suddenly find that while they had been busy emoting their bogus lines to the rafters the whole world outside their theater had gone mad. Markovic knows actors, he is the son of two of them, and he has spent his life in the world of theater and film. He makes these characters speak with great humanity, even as they are lying, preening and elbowing each other out of the frame. What they recite is perhaps not as important as the life that they breathe into their words. They are in contrast to the nationalist writer who has come to the front to sing the praises of Serbian revenge and terror. Whereas their words bring them freedom and gets the guns momentarily quiet, the writer’s words bring him food and privilege and sends people to their deaths.

The battlefields are the main theater of this story, but this reality is framed by the broken, empty theater in Belgrade where the film begins and ends. It is also an apt metaphor for the state of Serbian culture itself at the end of those years of conflict: terribly wounded, but still full of life and aching to rebuild.

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October 31, 2009 - Posted by | cinema | , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] Bosnian War as absurdist theater […]

    Pingback by Tales from the Golden Age: Cristian Mungiu hits his stride « Dominic Ambrose Blogblot | September 3, 2011 | Reply


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