Festival Review: Death In Sarajevo (2016)

Smrt u Sarajevu

Set in the multilayered world of a hotel, Danis Tanovic’s Death In Sarajevo begs the question whether we really need a metaphor for the Balkans.


by Mark Wilshin

Death In Sarajevo

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

Following his Silver Bear winner in 2013 An Episode In The Life Of An Iron-Picker, Danis Tanovic returns with Death In Sarajevo, a metaphor for Europe and Bosnia and Herzegovina that takes place within the premises of Sarajevo’s Hotel Europa. From the presidential suite to the kitchen, laundry and surveillance room, we encounter debts, proposed bank foreclosure and planned strikes as well as romantic trysts, family relations and a crooked boss, ruthless, violent and lecherous. But it’s not all just a simple allegory for contemporary politics, as a media crew debate the relative importance of Gavrilo Princip on the roof and the “hysterical dualism” of Bosnia as part of the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. The hotel is expecting an EU delegation and is watching carefully over its French VIP (Jacques Weber) as he carefully rehearses his speech (which turns out to be a theatrical performance, asides and all). But with a coked up security guard and a “Chetnik thug” with a gun, looking for someone to assassinate – there’s trouble in the making. It’s socially-oriented and political, but so specific to the Balkans, it’s questionable whether Danis Tanovic’s parable on the fate of Bosnia and Herzegovina carries enough heft to make it across the border.

Death In Sarajevo is now showing at the Berlin Film Festival

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