Game Theory
Reviewed for &, linked from Rotten Tomatoes by Harvey Karten
Director: Igor Drlja?a
Screenwriter: Igor Drljaca
Cast: Pavle Cemerkic, Sumeja Dardagan, Jasmin Geljo, Kerim Cutuna, Alban Ukaj, Irena Mulamuhic
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 4/3/22
Opens: April 22, 2022

“The White Fortress,” is named for one of Sarajevo’s leading tourist attractions, whose construction began in the Middle Ages and continued through the Ottoman period right up to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The fortress boasts a stunning view of the Sarajevo valley. In the eyes of Bosnian-Canadian director Igor Drljaca, this is a romantic spot, with its view of a city obviously endearing to him, a place from which many a fairy tale could take place. The realism in the film yields for a while to fable toward the conclusion, when Faruk (Pavle Cemerikic) had motorbiked his new love, Mona (Sumeja Dardagan), but who, after the two drift into slumber, simply disappears leaving his vehicle behind.

The film may have been inspired by the star-crossed love of Romeo and Juliet, lovely while the going is good but destined to yield an unhappy ending. What chance, after all, do Faruk and Mona have of living more than a brief season given that she comes from one of the city’s richest, politically connected families while he, an orphan living with his grandmother, ekes out a living selling scrap metal, boosting his income with a friend by picking up young women to sell in the sex trade?

The director, whose 2015 film “The Waiting Room,” focuses on a successful actor who dreams of returning to Sarajevo, obviously loves his birthplace, showing his audience good reason for his affection. Faruk rides his bike through the winding cobblestone streets, pausing to contrast Faruk’s ramshackle housing with the stately manor of his new love interest. Both youths are bored with their existence in different ways, attracted by a common desire to transcend their lives of desultory conversations and political maneuvering though exhibiting no thought that they could have more than a fleeting romance.

The slow-moving but carefully crafted tale offers reasonable entertainment, with the added benefit of making us dream, like Faruk and Mona, that we can throw aside the structures that have defined us in the past, and ascend toward something better. But life has a way of thwarting our reveries. “The White Fortress” may not be for everybody but it surely serve to motivate us to travel to a country noted for the shot heard ‘round the world in 1914, that became a Nazi puppet state in 1941, and that has survived four years of war in our own time.

In Bosnian and English with English subtitles.

88 minutes. © 2022 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B
Acting – B+
Technical –B
Overall – B

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By Harvey Karten

Harvey Karten is the founder of the The New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO) an organization composed of Internet film critics based in New York City. The group meets once a year, in December, for voting on its annual NYFCO Awards.

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