Eye For Film >> Movies >> For Those Who Can Tell No Tales (2013) Film Review
For Those Who Can Tell No Tales
Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson
Intensely personal experiences can make for gripping narratives but in the case of this film based on the experiences and subsequent play Seven Kilometres North-East - written by the film's lead actress Kym Vercoe - the harrowing events she wishes to remind the world about are unfortunately overshadowed by her own response to them.
Vercoe plays a version of herself, an idealistic performance artist, who heads to Bosnia on holiday. Reading about Višegrad in a guide book, she decides to go and visit the bridge over the Drina, which was an inspiration for Ivo Andric's book of the same name - the title of the film is an Andric quote. On arrival, she checks in at the Vlina Vlas Hotel, described in glowing romantic terms by her guide, only to find herself having the sort of middle of the night funny turn that usually only happens in low-rent horror movies.
This may, of course, be exactly what happened to Vercoe but the suggestion that it was some sort of subliminal response to what she subsequently goes on to discover about the Vlina Vlas rather than, say, a dodgy meal she ate at a local cafe, does nothing to reduce the air of narcissism that pervades the film. When she gets home to Sydney, she finds that the hotel was used as a detention centre during the Nineties Balkans conflict, with many women who were incarcerated there suffering torture and rape. This horrendous discovery prompts Vercoe to return to the town in winter to try to find out from the locals why the memories of the conflict have been so quickly swept away, without so much as a memorial.
The idea of a sunny present being in conflict with a distressful past is not a new one and, of course, the impressive shots that director Jasmila Zbanic takes of water flowing under the Drina bridge - itself the site of the massacre of Bosniaks - are laden with meaning. But while there is no doubting the admirable intentions of Vercoe's idea, the end result feels far too focused on her response to what happened than on the more universal impact of the events themselves.
More meaningful, perhaps, would have been a documentary about the subject - perhaps in a similar mode to concentration camp exploration KZ or The Holocaust Tourist. As it stands, we are given very little sense of the locals' reasons for reacting to the tourist's questioning in the way they do - although her antagonistic attitude towards them surely doesn't help. Also the use of a video diary conceit to let us into the mindset of this naif abroad only further serves to make the film feel egocentric. There is a powerful story to be told here but despite the undoubted heartfelt motivations that lie behind this film, it is a shadow of what might have been.Reviewed on: 21 Feb 2014
If you like this, try:As If I Am Not There