Perfect Circle, The

(Savrseni Krug)

Bosnia/France War Drama Color

Canes Film Festival 1997 (Directors Fortnight)–Sarajevo-born director Ademir Kenovic, whose first features, A Little Bit of Soul and Man, God, the Monster (aka MGM/Sarajevo), were shown in the Directors Fortnight, returns to Cannes with The Perfect Circle, a compassionately humanistic tale with poetic touches about the relationship between a poet and two orphaned children during the Bosnia war.

Hard on the edges, but soft at the center, this story of love, camaraderie and survival has a theatrical shot in big international markets, including the U.S., due to its universal anti-war message and big generous heart, and it will easily travel the global festival circuit.

New film is not as bold as MGM/Sarajevo, which Kenovic and his co-directors subtitled, “an aesthetic approach from film directors, with their views considerably changed through the phenomenon of war.” But it's a highly emotional, often moving and lyrical film, one that assumes an honorable place in the long cinematic tradition of tales about children in war. Though grounded in a particular time and place, in its approach and theme The Perfect Circle recalls such classics as Rene Clement's Forbidden Games, Tarkovsky's Ivan's Childhood, and most recently Kolya, which wasn't set in a military zone but also centered on the evolving bond between a mature artist and a young boy.

Story begins in the household of Hamza (Mustafa Nadarevic), a poet accused by his wife (Jasna Diklic) of being too preoccupied with his selfish concerns to help her and their teenage daughter, Miranda (Mirela Lambic) leave the war zone for safer places like London or Switzerland. With the entire region ravaged by harsh war atrocities, Hamza is not passive, but he seems to observe the situation from a distance.

Shortly after his wife and daughter leave Sarajevo, Hamza stumbles into Adis (Almedin Leleta) and Kerim (Almir Podgorika), two orphaned boys, aged 7 and 9 respectively, who find refuge in his house. The siblings have lost their entire family, except for aunt Aicha, who's now missing. With no choice, and almost reluctantly, Hamza promises to help them find their aunt and reach safety.

Tale concerns the evolving love and commitment between the children and Hamza, who becomes their surrogate father, a man who learns about the responsibilities–and rewards–entailed in having a family. Narrative is structured as a journey, whose official purpose is to find aunt Aicha, but actually serves as a chronicle of how the trio, including a wounded dog picked along the way, become a tight-knit family in the best sense of the term.

Kenovic, who also co-wrote the script, shows how brutal conditions become conducive to the formation of surrogate families that are much more meaningful than biological kinships. Indeed, the trip proves to be as much a learning experience for the older man as it is for the children. A bright, extremely perceptive kid, Adis learns how to overcome his fears, including a habit to wet his bed during nightmares. Amir serves as translator and mediator between the outside world and his older brother Kerim, a physically strong boy who's mute but possesses some hearing capacity.

Helmer strikes the right balance between the particular and universal elements of the Bosnia war, which should help his movie find a larger audience. He punctuates his road movie with devastating scenes that illuminate the senseless madness and arbitrary nature of violence of this conflict. The streets are filled with snipers and shootings erupt in the least expected places. Hence, a relatively peaceful picnic by the lake, or fishing by the river, are suddenly interrupted by grenade explosions and indiscriminate killing.

Boasting an authentic look and sharp camera work (by Milenko Uherka), the film captures the war's ruinous effects on innocent civilians, but also the ability of human nature to rise above petty fights over scarce food or water. In one of many haunting moments, which convey this duality, Hamza loses control over his rational faculties and begins to recite poetry and perform acrobatics on an empty street, watched with alarm by his fellow citizens from their shelter. An elderly woman, who valiantly gets out of the shelter to rescue him, is fatally shot by a sniper, while he survives.

Appropriately, the story begins and ends in a crowded cemetery that has no more room for casualties, and film's recurrent visual motif is that of Hamza watching himself hung on a rope.

Credits

Running time: 108 minutes

A Parnasse International and Sarajevo Dokument production, in association with the Sept-Cinema, the National Center of Cinematography and Canal Plus. Produced by Sylvain Bursztejn, Dana Rotberg, Peter van Vogelpoel. Directed by Ademir Kenovic. Screenplay, Kenovic, Abdulah Sidran, and Pjer Zalica. Camera (color), Milenko Uherka; editor, Christel Tanovic; music, Esad Arnautalic, Ranko Rihtman; set decoration, Kemal Hrustanovic; costume design, Sanja Dzeba; sound, David Baksht. Reviewed in Cannes (Directors Fortnight), May 9, 1997.

Cast:

Hamza….Mustafa Nadarevic
Adis……..Almedin Leleta
Kerim……Almir Podgorica
Gospoda…….Jasna Diklic
Miranda……Mirela Lambic

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