They’ll get you for this

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film Reviews -

JOSHUA MARSTON, the Amer­i­can di­rec­tor of Maria Full of Grace, makes an­other jour­ney over­seas with this tense, clammy drama set in a re­mote cor­ner of Al­ba­nia. One thinks of the re­cent mag­nif­i­cent Ro­ma­nian drama Katalin Varga, which also con­cerned it­self with a fierce feud. The For­give­ness of Blood deals in sim­i­lar de­grees of dread, but its re­straint ul­ti­mately proves its undoing. A few more un­sheathed knives would have been wel­come.

The film be­gins with Mark (Re­fet Abazi), who sur­vives by sell­ing bread, driv­ing his horse-drawn cart across a rocky stretch of ground. It tran­spires that the right of way is dis­puted. The owner of the land even­tu­ally de­cides to bar ac­cess and – in an in­ci­dent un­seen by the au­di­ence – is stabbed to death. Mark is ac­cused of the murder and flees the area with a rel­a­tive.

It seems that a tradition of ven­detta, un­al­tered by decades of com­mu­nism, still ap­plies in this cor­ner of Al­ba­nia. The fam­ily of the mur­dered man im­poses a class of house ar­rest on Mark’s fam­ily.

Marston’s sub­ject is the ef­fect the dis­pute has on the younger gen­er­a­tion. Nik (Tris­tan Halilaj), a teenager with yearn­ings to break free, sinks into a vol­canic sulk. Ru­d­ina (Sindi Lacej), his younger sis­ter, takes over the fam­ily busi­ness and, pre­vi­ously in­ter­ested in col­lege, con­sid­ers ex­pand­ing into cig­a­rette sales.

Each of the ac­tors makes some­thing fully fleshed of his or her role. The re­li­ably ex­cel­lent Rob Hardy shoots the pic­ture in a re­strained style that con­trasts markedly with his more stylised work on the Red Rid­ing tril­ogy.

One never gets the sense that Marston is im­pos­ing any sort of Hol­ly­wood gloss on his mod­ern folk­tale. But for all its in­tegrity (maybe, be­cause of its in­tegrity), The For­give­ness of Blood does feel a lit­tle short of mo­men­tum and a bit light on, well, blood. We are never quite sure whose story is be­ing told. The threat is of­ten too ob­scure.

Solid stuff, for all that.

Ven­detta’s vic­tim: Tris­tan Halilaj in The For­give­ness of Blood

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