Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Forgiveness of Blood

A downscaled look at a violent Albanian family conflict told through the eyes of the oldest boy and girl, Joshua Marston's "The Forgiveness of Blood" is less concerned with the specifics of the instigating situation than with the aftermath. We don't even know if those involved in the brutality are guilty, but we sure know what it's like to be an oldest son who can't go outside to school. This approach provides for an interesting but often unexciting film that at times hits its stride but at others only hints at development.

A road, owned for years by one part of a large family prominent in a small town, gets blocked. A father gets very, very upset and brings his brother along with him to take of matters with this flagrant-seeming cousin. When this new owner winds up dead, the uncle gets thrown in jail and the father has to go on the lam. To avoid more blood spilling, Nik, his sister Rudina, and their two younger siblings are forced to stay indoors until a settlement is reached between the two sides.

Nik, used to chasing girls and riding around on motorcycles, is now forced into a father figure role and also into intense boredom (which he at times tries to escape). Rudina, due to unwritten rules about not being able to harm females, is elected to take on the job of selling bread to help the family out. Both are stifled by these limitations, and a lot of the movie is in observing how fortunes can turn so fast. One minute you're asking your father if you can go shopping with your friends, the next you're trying to sell your horse to make ends meet.

The ending comes as a mildly devastating shock but hits a note maybe a bit too flat. The whole enterprise isn't overwhelmingly strong, but the soft-focus-heavy cinematography (becoming a staple of Marston's films) and screenplay (a solid choice for the award at Berlin, though "A Separation" may have been better) help keep things together. B-

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