Eye For Film >> Movies >> Among Wolves (2016) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
War, like any trauma, has an isolating effect on the survivors. It's difficult to return to civilian life for multiple reasons: the distrust and dark suspicions harboured by others, the pressure of their endless questions, and simply that they don't, can't understand the emotional landscape in which the survivors live. The men of Livno fought to defend their town during the Bosnian War ("I don't understand why the others were there," one of them says) yet now they are trying to atone to its people. Perhaps not for themselves. Perhaps for the world.
Now, these men find companionship with one another, not so much because they have shared experiences to talk about but because they know what not to talk about. They do have a shared passion for motorcycles, and have formed a biker gang which indulges in all the usual heavy drinking, scuffling and playing of loud rock music that you'd expect to see from its counterparts around the world. Its members also donate blood, repair old buildings, help nuns to fix their kitchens and protect a herd of wild horses who live on the hills above the town.
Shawn Convey's film is composed with a grace and deliberation rarely seen in documentary. Each shot is beautifully framed and lit, never rushed. From crowded interiors full of scurrying children to the bare hills in twilight, this is visual poetry. It captures the intense sense of place required to understand why the men felt compelled to act as they did during the war, and why they are so tightly bound to town and hills today. The latter, they say, are the easier place to be. One doesn't need to converse; one can just be. The horses grew so used to humans during the conflict that they happily let the bikers wander among them. in the past, when food was scarce, this lack of wariness saw them fall prey to less scrupulous humans. Now, nobody dares to mess with them, and their numbers are increasing.
This is a film full of small observations. The men, like the horses, always retain a bit of distance, but we learn about them through watching the way they work, play and interact with one another. Both groups organise themselves instinctively, each individual working out the best way to be useful. The shadow of war remains. It still hasn't been long since the last of the mines were cleared from the hills.Yet this is a film about communities rebuilding themselves: a message of hope, quiet, unassuming, magical.Reviewed on: 08 Feb 2019