Contemporary World Cinema

Death in Sarajevo

Danis Tanovic

An aging hotel becomes an ideological powder keg during centennial commemorations for the outbreak of the First World War, in this dazzling, Altmanesque fresco from Academy Award–winning director Danis Tanovic.

Winner of the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize and the FIPRESCI Prize at this year's Berlin Film Festival, Danis Tanovic's Death in Sarajevo is a mesmerizing rumination on the spectres of history looming over contemporary Europe. On the 100-year anniversary of the events that sparked the First World War, Sarajevo's aging and financially troubled Hotel Europa becomes the stage on which age-old disputes are about to play out. A large EU delegation is set to arrive for the centennial celebrations, but an unhappy and unpaid hotel workforce is threatening to shut the proceedings down. Above all this, on the rooftop, a TV show broadcasts discussions occasioned by the anniversary, covering topics ranging from Gavrilo Princip to Bosnian independence. Upon this narrative foundation, Tanovic builds his most intricate film yet, tracking the rising tensions amongst his ensemble of characters. And as the sparks fly, they threaten to ignite the ideological powder keg that is Hotel Europa. Tanovic's roving camera hurtles from floor to floor, offering a spatial rendition of the hotel's hierarchy while drawing connections between its various factions. Tanovic's ability to distill the personal from the global, as he did in his 2001 Academy Award–winning No Man's Land, makes for a compelling statement about the individual's ability to propel — or derail — the path of history. Recalling Altman and Renoir in its seemingly effortless steering of multiple characters, stories and ideas, Death in Sarajevo orchestrates a scenario in which human nature unravels itself as time and history look on with curious expectation.

DIMITRI EIPIDES

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theaters Regular

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