Pretty Village, Pretty Flame | Movie Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Pretty Village, Pretty Flame

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Srdjan Dragojevic's 1996 antiwar film was a hit in its native Serbia, which is probably a good thing: as one critic has noted, Serbs were kept so ignorant of the war that most didn't even know their militiamen were shelling Sarajevo. While not very inventive cinematically, the film is full of energy, and not merely of shootings and explosions: its anarchic narrative makes the characters seem wildly unhinged, and Dragojevic illuminates the absurdity of nationalist wars by depicting behavior that borders on the surreal--or the insane. One Serb militiaman boasts that Serbs were using forks 600 years ago, before other Europeans; near the film's end, another Serb tries to murder a Muslim with a fork. Much of the film concerns a group of Serb militiamen trapped in a tunnel by Muslim fighters outside; one militiaman was a boyhood friend of one of the Muslims, and flashbacks of their childhood make the killing seem even more vile. But Dragojevic tells his story largely from the Serbian perspective; he never details how the war began. And as with many antiwar films, the director seems at least partly attracted to the evil he portrays, blunting his intended point. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Friday, December 5, 6:00 and 8:30; Saturday, December 6, 3:30, 6:00, and 8:30; and Sunday, December 7, 2:00, 4:30, and 7:30; 312-443-3737. --Fred Camper

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.

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