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Joshua is a former U.S. military official who fled to the Foreign Legion when his wife Maria was killed by Muslim fundamentalists in Paris, and now he's a mercenary, fighting in the Yugoslav war on the Serbian side against Muslims. Written by
I suspect that for most Western Europeans and Americans the name 'Bosnia' is now no longer simply the name of a country, but also carries a subliminal implication of atrocity and ethnic viciousness. I doubt, then, that many people would approach this film with any false expectations of what it will contain.
That said, viewers should not come to this film for a political explanation of why and how the war happened - for that, it's probably best to read a few books. This film does attempt to give a human explanation of how and why wars like this one happen and continue to happen, though.
Inevitably, some have accused Savior of bias; though an American film, the director is a Serb, and it was filmed on location in Montenegro; with such emotive subject matter partiality would hardly be surprising. Indeed, the film does not flinch from discussing atrocities committed by Bosnian Muslims. Those who accuse this film of being pro-Serb, however, should consider that one of the most hateful caracters in the whole film, whom we witness carrying out pointlessly vicious acts of cruelty and mysogyny, and who happily admits to being a serial rapist, is himself a Serb.
Viewers should instead look to the human heart of this film. Dennis Quaid gives us a superb performance, rendering a character of some complexity (look at his expression when one character tells him 'You are a good man'). He is ably matched by Natasja Nincovic's complicated, battered portrayal of a Serb woman - and not merely a 'rape victim' stereotype that we know from other films.
There is a religious subtext for those who like looking for such things - plenty of Christ imagery, chiming nicely with the title. There is a special irony in the cross Joshua carries; apparently a Catholic, he has come to Bosnia specifically to kill Muslims in revenge for the loss of his family in a terrorist bombing - yet by joining the Serbs he is also aligned against the Catholic Croats. Perhaps this says something about the self-destructive nature of his revenge, and about his own internal conflict. This is a film about a man divided against himself, in a country divided against itself.
It is particularly effective that the main character in this film is an American. We are tempted to comfortably see him as 'one of us', a decent man in the midst of a barbaric war - but we are not allowed such passive comforts. Eaten by revenge and pain, little seperates Joshua from his barbaric 'sidekick' Goran, whose mindless cruelty he meets with contempt but also inaction. His own conduct is difficult to stomach, but nonetheless presented as the actions of a human, not a monster.
What Antonijevic's film does, then, is look at the line between those who have, and those who have not, become indifferent to the suffering of others
it is in this way that the perpetuation of war is explored. There are
no politics, no discussion of religion, or of 'age old ethnic hatreds'. The focus of this strong film is the simple human cost both in lives extinguished and lives mutilated by war. Indeed, for those not very familiar with the details of the war in Bosnia, the practical anonymity of the different soldiers throughout the film will heighten the sense of War as something soldiers do to Civilians.
People who respect and appreciate this film should steer clear of the recent Behind Enemy Lines however - it reuses fragments of the Lake scene in Savior to simplistically anti-Serb effect, completely bastardising the intent of the people who originally created those images.
Nonetheless, despite what has been done to it Savior remains beautifully acted, tragic, mature film-making.
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