Jul. 04, 2012 - Issue #872: The Beer Issue
The Forgiveness of Blood
The film opens with what seems a 16th-century Bruegel painting slowly coming alive. Meadows, old houses and low mountains sprawling gloomily behind it, a horse and wagon trundle along a grass-path before two men—Nik (Tristan Halilaj) and his father—get out and remove the stones blocking entry to the road. The path was part of their family’s land but was later given, by the state, to another family. When its patriarch decides to close off access, Nik’s father returns with his uncle; one of them stabs their territorial enemy to death and they both disappear.
So that medieval opening is purposeful—Nik is dragged out of his late-teen 21st-century space (of cellphones, Facebook and plans to open an Internet café) and into a time of blood-feuds and ritualized, man-to-man negotiations for justice (in keeping with the Kanun, a set of traditional laws). His sister’s framed by the narrow window of the cart, looking out as her father’s embroiled in the dispute; afterwards, Nik looks up as he’s lying down in the back of the car his cousins have just bustled him into en route to his home-cum-safehouse. For Nik, it’s the extreme in being grounded; worse, the scrawny, gangly guy can’t see his Juliet. And Nik’s sister Rudina (Sindi Lacej) must leave school behind to take up the bread-run her father left. The grind of home-imprisonment slowly wears down family spirits.
Beyond the first scene, there are other iconic shots, as when Rudina warily enters the men’s world of a bakery. (Meanwhile, Nik gets more irritable that his father’s role has been filled by her, not him, even as the grieving family wants to kill Nik or his younger brother because they’re the male heirs—the childishness of men now threatens the true children.) An eerie glow of light, sometimes sharpened into a glare, cuts through certain scenes. Still, some are capped by clichés: the gruff but proud father; the crushing teens whose hands come close to touching; an elder sibling telling his young brother, “You have to be strong.”
The Forgiveness of Blood runs deepest as a vicious twist on the coming-of-age teen movie and when it offers up small moments within this near-mythic feud: Nik going slowly stir-crazy, arguments about how best to execute a traditional code of honour (see also: A Separation), Rudina selling off the horse. But slowly, ominously, a tragic resolution, through another kind of loss, approaches. Here, revenge is a dish served hot-blooded. It’s the sharp slaps of betrayal and yearnings for the impossible that chill. V
Metro Cinema at the Garneau
July 6 – 10
Directed by: Joshua Marston
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