Dir: Goran Rusinovic. Croatia-Bosnia-Herzegovina-UK-US-Ger. 2008. 85mins.
The winner of Sarajevo best film, best actor and FIPRESCI prizes, Goran Rusinovic's Buick Riviera takes the war in Bosnia to the frozen plains of Minnesota in a film about racial hatred and personal animosity. A Serb and a Muslem, both from Bosnia, meet accidentally in the middle of a deserted highway and immediately launch into a spiteful verbal duel which continues until the film's fatal conclusion. This film raises many questions in a thought-provoking way and with the right guidance should find a modest international niche in the specialized market.
Seventeen years after he left Bosnia for America, Hasan (Stimac) is still unemployed but can't muster the energy to do anything about it. Married to policewoman Angela (Klein) with whom he won't discuss how he lost his family in Sarajevo, his only interest is the old Buick Riviera, a refuge where he feels he is the master of his own fate. One night his car gets stuck in the snow and he stops a passing motorist for help. Hasan and the car's driver Vuko (Lucev) realize they speak the same language and Vuko offers Hasan a ride back into town. As soon as they are on their way Vuko gives Hasan his life story - how he arrived five years before and married a rich woman whom he has just left and how he is now ready to start a new life. Hasan doesn't say much and Vuko launches into a tirade against Muslems, their behaviour, their nature and their deviousness. The argument continues into Hasan's home and soon involves more than just words.
Although they share many characteristics - both aliens in a foreign country, both unable to start anew, both married to American women who remain strangers - one is a victim, the other a torturer and neither time nor distance has changed that. The unnerving conclusion which shows that this war is not over yet is disturbing enough to provoke more than a few debates and confirm some of the dark rumours going around the Balkans.
Subtle underplaying by Stimac (a veteran of Emir Kusturica's films) as the man who wants to forget his identity but can't is contrasted with the brash performance of Lucev as the villainous Serb who boasts of his origins (Stimac and Lucev shared the Sarajevo best actor award). Klein meanwhile is the uncomprehending American watching a confrontation she is no part of and doesn't really understand.
Although the contrast between the two lead performances works well, the script lacks the depth that would explain the facts as well as establishing them, though events might still be too raw for the film-maker to explore the reasons behind them objectively. The frozen expanses of snow and gritty asphalt roads contrast well with the passionate emotions on display.
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