If I trusted bad-intended review from the Montreal Film Festival 2003 I would probably skip this film or better to say I would miss to see well acted and well directed emotionally tense piece of art. Luckily I had a chance to see Mitrikeski's first film 'Across the lake' seven years ago and I still remember it very well. The other part of reason that attracted me was a script by Dejan Dukovski who previously wrote a magnificent play 'Cabaret Balkan' that served as a plot for one of the best Serbian movies filmed in the late nineties, Goran Paskaljevic's 'Bure baruta'.
'Like a bad dream' has the same wide Slavic soul that was evident in 'Across the lake' and tells probably more about its director than about anything else. The story is slightly darker and more schizophrenic but again very 'Balkanic' as it retrospectively follows dysfunctional lives of people heavily affected by the recent Balkan wars. All of them are searching for love and understanding but get very little of it. Sejtan (Miki Manojlovic outstanding as always) was recruited to the army right from his wedding and came back from the war heavily traumatized. He cannot establish communication with his devoted wife (impressive Iskra Veterova) as the flash-backs of unneeded violence towards both men and women are hunting him. Running from her he actually tries to run from himself and his memories. Instead of finding peace in Amsterdam he founds another runaway from the war, a young Ivan (very promising Ertan Saban). Ivan's professor (Robert Englund) falls in love with his gorgeous straight student and this makes story even more complicated and catastrophic.
Yes, there definitely is an absolute mess in all characters' lives, and that is probably something that a person who lives far away, on another continent, and, luckily, have no war experiences could never imagine, not to say understand. But if a person cannot understand such a problem, which is indeed a cry for a help, this does not necessarily mean that the film is worthless. Two leading actors are excellent. In some cases even the supporting players are great (Alma Prica as a nun in prison). The author does not judge, does not justify, does not try to make things not a bit nicer - just throws to the spectators' faces heavy war consequences as a warning. It might be useless; but that is what art can do. I left the cinema with quite bitter taste in my mouth, feeling so overwhelmed by strong emotions that I was barely able to speak. That is my measure for a film's quality it has to make me FEEL. One additional trilling thing is smart use of music. The album 'Melurgia' by Anastasia, a terrific Macedonian band that became better known after the music for the Milco Mancevski's 'Before the rain', was used as entirely suitable soundtrack for the Balkan-based parts of the story. Specific mixture of traditional Macedonian rhythms, spiritual Byzantian heritage and Orthodox religious singing with use of modern technology was composed much before this film was made (1997) but its unsolved depth and unusual beauty add a sense of mystery and affliction and a bit of fear that this damn part of the world might be truly cursed. So do not trust everything you can read on www. Make your own judgment. And enjoy this powerful movie like I did.
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