As part of the Philadelphia Film Festival (CineFest), I caught the Serbian movie The Tour (Turneja), which follows a group of Belgrade actors on an ill-fated tour to the front lines of the 1993 civil war in Bosnia.
It showed at the Ritz 5 yesterday afternoon.
(from left) Dragan Nikolic, Mira Furlan, Jelena Djokic, Tihomir Stanic, Gordan Kicic in "The Tour (Turneja)"
I was interested in this movie in part because I recognized the name of the director (Goran Markovic, who also helmed Tito and Me), and also some of the actors, partly because of the coverage that Serbian freelancer Rada Djurica has done for years of several Eastern European film festivals for my online literary magazine, Wild Violet. I also recognized Mira Furlan from her work on the TV series, Babylon 5.
When we meet the acting troupe, they are lounging backstage at their Belgrade theater, playing cards in costume during rehearsal. When a friend and would-be actor, Stanislav (Tihomir Stanic), tells them about a brief tour he's arranged to the war region, they reluctantly agree, but not before he assures them the hostilities are practically over.
The first indication of trouble comes when the actors see their transport. They expect a bus but instead load into an armored all-terrain vehicle, specially commissioner by the military commander seeking their services.
As you might imagine, this is only the beginning of an eye-opening journey, where the actors encounter those involved in the conflict on all sides. As they attempt to perform under makeshift, dangerous conditions, they come face to face with both courage and cruelty.
This film is as marvelously crafted as any well-written play, with excellent character development, dialogue and plot structure. The members of the company complement each other well, squabbling and yet, when it matters, working together seamlessly, drawing on years of trust built by performing together.
Amongst the company are former sex symbol and stage star Sonja (Mira Furlan), who clashes with the young actress just finishing acting school, Jadranka (Jelena Djokic). Also aboard is a young romantic lead, Lale (Gordan Kicic), who rejects the politics of conflict; a seasoned stage actor, Misko (Dragan Nikolic), who serves as a father figure and voice of reason; and Sonja's former lover, Zaki (Josif Tatic), now fallen prey to years of excessive eating and drinking. Then, of course, there is Stanislav, their naive tour manager, who really hungers to be on the stage.
Shot on location, the film captures the feel of the front lines: as mundane moments are transformed and danger lurks around every corner.
The Tour (Turneja) reminds me of the film M*A*S*H for the way it blends humor with pathos, all for the purpose of highlighting the senselessness of war.
Rating: ***** (5 out of 5 stars)
If your "bus" is an armored vehicle, you're not going to Disney World.