Friday, November 18, 2011

As If I Am Not There (2010)

As If I Am Not There (2010)
As If I Am Not There (2010)

Genre: Drama
Director: Juanita Wilson
Starring: Natasha Petrovic, Fedja Stukan, Stellan Skarsgård
Language: Serbo-Croatian
Duration: 109 min.
Rating: 7.0  

Samira is a modern schoolteacher in Sarajevo who takes a job in a small country village just as the war is beginning to ramp up. When Serbian soldiers overrun the village, shoot the men and keep the women as laborers and sex objects, Samira is subjected to the basest form of treatment imaginable.

As If I Am Not There is the debut feature film from Irish director Juanita Wilson, who's 2008 short film The Door was nominated for an Academy Award.  This is Ireland's official submission to the 84th (2012) Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film.

A harrowing film that looks at wartime atrocities from the eye of the victims, As If I Am Not There is based on true stories from survivors of the Bosnian war and follows Samira (Natasa Petrovic) a young schoolteacher who leaves her home in Sarajevo to accept a substitute position in a remote village shortly before the start of the war.  Things go well for the idealistic Samira at first, settling into the village and her job nicely, until one morning she wakes up to the entire village being rounded up by Serbian soldiers.  The start of a long and brutal ordeal where she is forced to do unspeakable things and make the hardest choices in order to survive.

Wilson handles the material in an interesting way.  No background or reasoning for the war are given, thus avoiding the expected heavy political message and turning it into a basic human rights story.  The screenplay also uses very little dialogue, relying on framing the camera efficiently to show rather than tell the events.  In fact this could have almost been a silent film in the way the images do all the storytelling.  This stylistic choice works well to relay Samira's and indeed those around her's terrible experiences in a frank but non exploitative manner.

However, the film suffers from a lack of depth in the characters, although Natasa Petrovic delivers a brave and capable performance, we never truly get into Samira's head to really understand who she is.  Also no attempt is made to humanize any of the rest of the cast of supporting characters, they are all a blur of helpless victims or evil soldiers.  The film also loses its way near the end with some unnecessary sidetracking that did not have the intended dramatic impact.  Though watch out for a brief cameo from Stellan Skarsgård.

Juanita Wilson's first full length effort tackles a powerful and compelling subject with a delicate hand.  She shows a talent for crafting a complex and evocative scene with minimal words.  However, it is at times very uncomfortable viewing, and lacks dramatic polish.  Worth seeing, but I would be surprised if it makes the Academy shortlist in an unusually strong year.

Bonjour Tristesse

As If I Am Not There (2010)

As If I Am Not There (2010)

As If I Am Not There (2010)

As If I Am Not There (2010)

As If I Am Not There (2010)

As If I Am Not There (2010)

As If I Am Not There (2010)

As If I Am Not There (2010)


Bonjour Tristesse said...

The director's previously nominated short film was in Russian, I wonder what language her next effort will be in...

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Yeah not exactly one to love or enjoy, but it has an interesting perspective and an important message.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Thanks for coming back my friend.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

I'm pretty sure if you watched this without subtitles, you would still know exactly what was going on in every scene. 

Also see my responses below.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Sometimes I do for the older foreign ones that I cant find anywhere else.  Hint do a google search for: Cinema of the World

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Hmm, I see a lot of the recent ones at various art house cinemas around me.  I also go to specialty video stores like,

Depending on how big of a city you live in, sometimes public libraries can be a great resource for classic and rare dvds. 

Of course if you are lazy or broke, a lot of the older ones can be found on YouTube, or seedier online places where sailors with eye patches and peglegs hang out.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Haha, I suppose that is a rare occurrence.  Well, I'm glad you still come by this way every day even if you can't discuss most of the films..

d_4 said...

I like how the plot goes, I really think I'll enjoy this one. Maybe not love, but yeah. 

Michael Troutman said...

Been awhile since I have been by here. Good to see that there are still people putting the spotlight on films like this. Even if you do get people wondering where you found them.

Hoi-Ming Ng said...

Ohh silent film (^_____^). Almost.

And I'd like to get a lead on where to find some of these too...

Shutter Bug said...

I was also wondering about that where one would find these indie movies. do you download these movies? 

Dustee said...

I'm with Angry, I'd watch it, if I saw it was on was on, I'd watch lots of the movies you discuss, but I don't have any idea as to where to find most of the movies you review.... any help? :) and Have a great day.

FrontRoomCinema said...

I am so happy that I have finally come here and found a review to a film I have already reviewed!! I felt very similar to you my friend, and a similar score too!!

The Angry Lurker said...

A very grim period of time, I would watch it but only if it appeared on telly one night.

NeverTooEarlyMP said...

Nice review. This one peaked my interest a little bit to have Ireland submitting a film about Bosnia, but it sounds like it may be a little too brutal for me, especially if it's not likely to make the short list. By the way, if I haven't mentioned it before: I am so jealous that you get to see all of these films so early!

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