Director: Srdjan Karanovic
Starring: Miki Manojlovic, Iva Krajnc, Radivoje Bukvic, Nebojsa Dugalic
Duration: 106 min.
At the eve of The Great War, Filip, a Serb and the school headmaster in a small Serbian town, is summoned urgently to Belgrade to serve in the war effort. He leaves his wife with the school custodian Azem, an illiterate, patriarchal Albanian, who gives Filip his solemn oath to look after Lea and to see to it that nothing happens to her.
Besa is a Serbian film from Srdjan Karanovic, it was selected as Serbia's official entry to the 83rd Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film. Besa is a code in Albanian culture that means "a solemn promise" or "word of honor".
Based on a true story, the film follows the uneasy relationship that develops between Lea (Iva Krajnc), the beautiful young wife of a school headmaster, and Azem (Miki Manojlovic) the custodian who vows to look after her when her husband is summoned to join the war. Lea being from Slovenia which at the time was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and an enemy of Serbia, is regarded with hostility by the townsfolk and Filip (Nebojsa Dugalic) her husband has trouble finding anyone willing to look after her. After being turned down by half the town, as a last resort he asks Azem who reluctantly accepts the duty and swears to keep her safe until Filip returns.
Both Miki Manojlovic and Iva Krajnc give wonderful performances, often with minimal dialog. As their complicated relationship goes from awkward and hostile, to a budding friendship and then a respectful but dangerous bond when their feelings develop for one another. Highlighted by probably one of the most intimate love scenes with no touching ever filmed.
With Besa, Karanovic delivers a twist to the usual love story, a captivating history lesson, and an interesting look at the cultural differences between long time neighboring nations Serbia and Albania.