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This movie was stunning. Foreign films are usually seen as so difficult to grasp and inaccessible, but this managed to hold everything together. At two and a bit hours, it sometimes seems to go on, but the finale is worth it. People laughed and people cried. It was beautiful.
Director Srdjan Dragojevic's Bosnian war film "Pretty Village, Pretty Flame" is an amazing movie about two friends separated by the cost of war. Milan is Serbian, and Halil is Muslim. They are best friends, and we learn much about them through flashbacks in the story. The movie is shown out of sequence, so we see Milan in the hospital, and through the various flashbacks we witness what got him to the hospital. One of the films images which stands out in my mind, is the beginning with the opening of the 1980 peace tunnel. During the celebration the man cuts his finger instead of the ribbon. Then we are forced to move unto the present where peace is far from any mindset. Both friends as children are afraid to go into a tunnel, for they fear an ogre lives in there. All grown up and in the heat of battle, Milan and his squad hide from the Muslims in that particular tunnel, only to be trapped there for days in a grueling stand off between the Serbs and Muslims. They almost become the ogres. Mulan remembers the good times with Halil, before the war broke out. A medical supply truck driven by a recovering junkie gets trapped in the cave also with a female American journalist who is hidden inside. The film is very realistic, but at the same time manages to throw in some dark comedy. Even when Mulan is in the hospital and can hardly move from injuries, he is still hellbent on killing a Bosnian soldier who is in the next room over. All he can think about is his mother and his family who is dead, and his fellow comrade who is almost dead. His other friend, the professor comforts him and tries to convince him that revenge is not worth it. From that point on the film grows more psychologically disturbing. There is so much in this film, that it is hard to describe unless you've seen it or understand the Bosnian conflict. "Pretty Village, Pretty Flame" is far from a typical Hollywood war film. Although the film is told through the view of the Serbian side, No military act is justified. This has to be one of the saddest films I have ever seen. Another image that haunts me even after the film has ended, is the scene where the ground is covered head to toe with dead corpses, including children. Emotional accordion music plays in the background, as the brutal nature of war is shown in a way a Hollywood film would never be able to. "Pretty Village Pretty Flame" is one of the best and underrated war films of all time. See it to remind yourself of how sad and terrible war is. It's a tense dramatic film that stays with you, long after it's over 10/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Being of Serbian heritage, and being born in the U.S.A, I can say that
seen many films on both sides. America has the Vietnam film, and so a
like THE DEER HUNTER can be said tha it is the best Vietnam film of all
time. So, it can be said that Pretty Village... is the best film about
Bosnian war! My family took in a Serbian Soldier that was wonded during
that war, lost a leg and eye in battle, and the stories he told are eerily
silimar to this film.
I am also a film maker, and I can say that over the many years of seeing brilliant films, this one is one of the best. The film cuts back and forth like a pendulam.... showing us just enough of each character's past to understand why they joined the army... and why they are now starving in a tunnel. The film is heavy on symbolisim... the tunnel represents all that was lost with the break up of Yugoslavia. It represents what ONCE WAS... and now is the setting of a tragic battle.
The film begins with a story about a wedding party that was killed... and yes, its true, a Serbian wedding party was killed before the war broke out... this lead to the bloody conflict. The film captures all the right aspects of the war. It can be said that this film is up there with Emir Kusterica's UNDERGROUND as one of the best films from the former Yugoslavia. Also, not a strange coincedence at the end of the film. This film was shot before the Kosovo conflict... a couple of years before.... but in the end, a image of the tunnel is shown being RE-OPEN! A narrator says that the Tunnel was being re-opened for the international community.... then a man cuts his thumb on the ribbon.... just as he did at the start. The meaning behind this is suppose to indicate that another conflict would errupt in that region! The narrator said the year was 1999. Funny how the film predicted that something would happen that year... which it did: KOSOVO! That is very bizarre!
If you want to see a gripping, and tragic, and painful film... see Pretty Village, Pretty Flame! It is unlike anything you've ever seen!
Don't let the low marks take you away from this masterpiece - look at
stars assignment, and you will get the picture.
If you expect black and white war movie, forget it. For me, this is by far most objective movie about civil war(s) in ex-Yugoslavia, better then Bosnian (good) "No man's land" and Macedonian (masterpiece) "Before the rain". At the beginning, you will see Serbs burning villages (that explain title of movie) and killing people, but, from middle to end, you will see completely same behavior done by Bosnian Muslims. Brilliance of this movie is because it shows you why this war was so bloody and why it is so hard to have peace and reconciliation after all. Every killing, every murder, has story behind, and movie gather them all. You have pure communist (Bata Zivojinovic) against his fellow officer, you have two best friends (Nikola Bjelogrlic - Bosnian Serb, Nikola Pejakovic - Bosnian Muslim) against each other, you have urban freaks, you have junkies, you have educated teacher, you have everything you need. Every one of them has his own reason to be there, but at the end, they all end completely empty, with only pure hate inside.
I suppose that some things from movie will be hard to get if you are not from Balkan. For example, Index (that's name of the bend) song that Nikola Kojo sing using gun as mice, was one of the greatest classics in ex-Yu (and lyrics fit the scene perfectly: "And tonight, if she listen, let her hear the pain..."). Some sentences are very hard to translate. For example, in joke scene, when Zoran Cvijanovic (junkie) want to insult Bosnian Muslim soldiers, he tell them joke that begins with "Check this out: Blonde, I mean Fata the Blonde, come to party..." Fata is Muslim name, but is obvious that joke was first intended as joke abound blonde woman, but he upgraded it in the moment. Also, in one scene you can see Serbian skinheads that are kicking traffic table with "Zagreb" (Croatian capital) written on it. Two are holding the table, one is hitting it by the head, and they are all singing "We f*cked Tajci! We f*cked Tajci!" Tajci was ex-Yu singer from Croatia that represented country on Eurovision competition few years before war started. Also, most of the scenes are extremely dark and funny at the same time, but that's Serbian humor in general.
Even without this small hints, movie still remain pure classic, to me comparable only with "Apocalypse now" and "Platoon" by its objectivity. It is very fast movie, easy to watch and hard to understand, as Balkan always was. I hope you will enjoy.
even if you were not on balkans - ex-Yugoslavia, this movie will 'hurt' you... and if you are from there - it just kills you, makes you feel pain, and laugh at the same time... it is about a great country that does not exist anymore - and maybe never existed, and about OGRE from the tunnel whick lives in each and every one of us. the subtitles (for USA) are not the first class.the translation could have been done better. anyway great movie.
As a man who was participating this conflict and I can only say that this
movie more realistically pictures the war in Bosnia, then any other ever.
Every time I watch this movie, it makes my heart beats so strong like I'm
there again and revives all the memories forgotten long time ago. The
story try's to explain this conflict from very essence of our people,
covering various aspects of how different people have got involved in this
war. Off course I can't really say that 'explanation' really exists, but
it does this is the place to start from. There are some exaggerated
but they are so rhythmically composed, that whole picture at the end
very strong and logical.
I believe many viewers won't be able to accept this story, but that's their problem, I guess... For those who are openminded, not prejudiced and ready to see the other side of medal (whatever it might be!), this can be a masterclass lesson not only about the war, but about the hidden human nature, that most of people never have a 'chance' to find in themselves, but it undoubtfully exists in each of us!
For people who liked this movie, I can even more recommend other Dragojevic's masterpiece - 'Rane' ('Wounds'), which is not a typical war movie, but from other side of view gives story never spoken so far.
A very powerful film. One of the best war/anti-war films I can remember,
and there are a lot of them. Worth watching if only for a fantasy scene
resembling a music video when over a rock song that translates essentially
as "their dancing to rock and roll in jugoslavia and everything is going
down the hole."
Mix of starkly realistic war footage and very black comedy. Essential for anyone who wants to understand any of the Balkan wars.
What an absolutely amazing and realistically poignant take on the war in the former Yugoslavia. Being of Serbian descent this movie is considered an epic by our people. With all the anti-Serbian propaganda that was spewed by the media and by other movie directors that have done films about this horrific war, it was gratifying to my nationalistic side to see a movie that told it like it really was. This is one of the first movies since maybe Platoon or Apocalypse Now that shows the true damage that war can do to the human psyche. The soldiers were seen as regular guys with regular lives before the war and not as Balkan Brutes which the western media has portrayed them as many times. What made it more believable was the fact that the people fighting in this war (Serbs and Croats) were as close as brothers before the war, and seeing the reaction of the characters to each other during the war seemed very believable.
I've seen it again today. I've seen it ten years ago when it first came out. On a 17x copied VHS bootleg tape, and now on DVD. Without going into details, I can only say this is one of the movies that I've seen many times and each time I see it it strikes me as the best of the best. It's multi layered and highly symbolic at times, due to that, the only ones to understand it fully are people that have a good understanding of the Balkan wars and/or the mentality of the characters. Some see it as pro-Serbian propaganda, other see it as anti-Serbian. And that alone makes it worth watching for me. Anyways, it's a chilling and wonderful masterpiece. Sad, bleak, darkly humorous at times but very very VERY good.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As mentioned in other reviews, this is an excellent anti-war film told
from the Serbian perspective - very much like 'Stalingrad' another
anti-war film told from the German perspective. In a black and white
world, this film shows that there were and are shades of grey; that
previous to the wars in Yugoslavia, there was relative ethnic peace and
harmony and that people exploited ethnic divisions for their own ends.
The Serbs trapped in the aforementioned tunnel are the different
archetypes of the forces in Bosnia at that type - the pro-unitary
Yugoslavia Commander; the Chetnik nationalist, the Academic, the
wheeler dealer, and the junkie, brought together by this terrible war.
And of course the naive American reporter.
This film is by no means Serbian propaganda - if anything, it's pro-Yugoslav propaganda - atrocities were committed on all sides against all sides - even Muslim against Muslim.
It reminds me once of an anecdote I heard from a Bosnian Muslim reporter who took some American reporters to the site of a massacre of Muslims by the Serbs, and then offered to take them to a similar site of where Serbs had been slaughtered by Muslim forces. The reporters weren't interested in the latter, as it made things 'too complicated' apparently. The US press are only interested in simple, easy to understand good guys vs bad guys.
SPOILER ALERT****SPOILER ALERT
The fact that Halil, the former best friend of the main character Milan, kills himself at the end, torn as he was between friendship and kindship really illustrates the futility of this type of war, that never should have been allowed to happen by all protagonists.
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