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November 06, 2016

Denver Film Festival: A Good Wife

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Dobra Zena
Mirjana Karanovic - 2016
Films Boutique

Lately it would seem that the best known films coming out of Serbia would be the most sensationalistic, like A Serbian Film and Life and Death of a Porno Gang. And to some extent, after watching A Good Wife, I have a bit more understanding of the kind of environment which would produce the more notorious films. Violence is never too far away in A Good Wife either in the way some friends treat each other, domestic violence, or in the memory of the period known collectively as the Yugoslav Civil Wars that took place between 1991 and 2001.

Milena is the good wife of the title, who lives an upper class life with her husband outside of Belgrade, frequently socializing with a close-knit group of friends. Eventually it is revealed that the husbands fought together during the civil wars. The continual new shows discussing war crimes becomes less abstract when Milena discovers a video tape of her husband and friends, in their role as Serbian soldiers, executing Muslim civilians. Simultaneous to this revelation is Milena's diagnosis of breast cancer, and the advice that she needs an immediate double mastectomy.

The symbolism may be obvious, but Karanovic, as writer and director, treats it with enough restraint to allow the viewers to draw their own conclusions. Karanovic, an accomplished veteran actress best known for her association with Serbian filmmaker Emir Kusturica, also plays the title role. Milena feels the tug not only of the relatively recent past, but also the deeper past of the church in addition to trying to face an uncertain future. Through her characters, Karanovic also poses the question of what it means for Serbia to be a modern country rather than one defined by its past.

The film's ending is deliberately left open. In an interview, Karanovic stated "It's not that I'm judging anybody, I'm just trying to stimulate people to think about it on their own. I don't want to send a message of how to think, but I want to provoke an emotional response to the story, and it could start an intellectual response because I think it is important. It's important to face the truth. It's not good hiding this and trying to pretend that nothing happened, so that's what I want."

Posted by peter at November 6, 2016 07:10 AM