Forgiveness of Blood, The: Joshua (Maria Full of Grace) Marston’s Second Film

Consistently tense, richly textured, and sporadically affecting, The Foregiveness of Blood is the second feature from Joshua Marston, wh made a splash several years ago with his stunning debut, Maria Full of Grace.

Though “Forgiveness” is not as good or as gripping as his first film, it reaffirms the talent of Marston as a skillful director of thrillers with political rlevancy, set in far and foreign milieus.

The film won awards for Best Screenplay at the 2011 Berlin and Chicago film festivals and the Special Jury Prize at the Hamptons Film Festival. Also featured at the Telluride, Toronto and AFI festivals, “Forgiveness of Blood” opens in New York and Los Angeles on February 24, with a national rollout to follow. On March 2, it will be available nationwide on Sundance Selects’ video on demand platform, available to over 50 million homes in all major markets.

Tale, co-written by Martson and Albanian director Andamion Murataj, centers on a family caught up in a blood feud.   Indeed, generations-long tradition of blood and vengeance affects this (and other) families of small towns.

Nik (Tristan Halilaj) is a carefree teenager, with a crush on the school beauty. His professional ambition is to start his own internet café. But his world is suddenly shattered when his father and uncle become entangled in a land dispute that results in senseless  murders.

According to a centuries-old code of law, which is primitive but abiding, this entitles the dead man’s family to take the life of a male from Nik’s family as retribution.

With his uncle in jail and his father in hiding, Nik is the prime target, though being confined to his home limits his actions—and makes him far less interesting dramaric character than his younger sister Rudina (Sindi Laçej), who is forced to leave school and take over their father’s business.

Though set in Albania, “Forgiveness of Blood” touches upon a more genral problem, namely, how to maintain social stability and moral order in a society that’s still governed by archatic rules and primitve norms, which encourage more violence than protection of individual and familial safety.

As he demonstrated in “Maria Full of Grace,” Marston knows how to build and sustains suspense.  In this work, he also benefits from working with a cast of non-professional actors, who increase the authenticity of the tale, which is largely fictional, but grounded in factuality.

Problem is, Marston wants to make a commercial and accessible feature, but heavily relies on the attributes of an art film.  Thus, at least half of the story is directed and acted in a deliberate tempo, which slows down the proceedings.

Mainstream audiences may also find the film as too pregnant with longeurs and silences.  Like other art director, Martson is more adept in constructing the right atmosphere and imbuing it with a good deal of ambiguity than telling his story in a more strightforward and compelling manner.

Even so, it’s worth attending “Foregiveness of Blood,” a picture that’s unlike any other work in the theatrical marketplace right now.

 

Credits

Running time: 109 Minutes.

Directed by: Joshua Marston.

Screenplay: Joshua Marston and Andamion Murataj.