Director: Goran Radovanovic (Germany, Serbia). Year of Release: 2015
Kosovo, 2004. A classroom, containing a single 10-year old boy and one teacher. The boy is reading from an essay called “My Best Friend”. He reads out: “I don’t have a best friend as there are no more children in my village”. Nenad and his family are Christian Serbians living in an Albanian Muslim enclave. Most of the other Albanians have moved out, and he is the only boy at his school.
We cut to: an armoured transporter cruising through the bleak countryside. Two local kids emerge from hiding to start throwing stones. Later they’ll brag about how many time they hit the vehicle. The transporter is taking Nenad home from school to his alcoholic widower father and his dying grandfather, the only people with whom he has contact, other than the teacher and the armed KFOR soldiers who guard his journey.
Inside the transporter, Nenad occasionally plays Eenie. Meenie Minie, Moe with one of the soldiers (fortunately, they don’t get to the second line). It’s so dark that the only light comes from candles. You don’t get the feeling that either the soldiers or Nenad get much out of this arrangement, but post-war tensions are still high, and there are a lot of decommissioned weapons still out there.
When the only teacher at the school leaves the village and moves to Belgrade, Nenad is sent to a new school where the teacher ridicules him for being Albanian and he sits in lessons on his own. At play time, he stands on the edge of the football games, but the kids playing snarl at him if he gets too near the ball. The wounds from the recent war – both literal and metaphorical – are too tender for any kind of reconciliation quite yet.
As Enclave continues, Stuff happens. A young couple get married. Nenan’s grandfather plays games with him, as his father is too busy drinking and grieving his wife. And there are a lot of scenes of grazing cows. Most of these things happen with minimal dialogue. It is not always easy to see what these different scenes have to do with each other, and quite which chronological order they are taking place in.
Nenad’s beloved grandfather dies and must be buried. Nenan is sent to find a priest. He must go by foot, as, like the armoured transporters, all Serbian buses are stoned. On his travels, he encounters Bashkim, a young Albanian shepherd, who mistrusts all Serbs who he sees as being collectively responsible for his father’s death in the war. Which is a problem, as Bashkin has a gun. Nena and Bashkim develop an uneasy relationship, leading to them getting trapped under a giant bell.
Enclave is certainly on the right side, even if it shows more obvious sympathy for the Serbs than Albanians. And director Radovanovic wants the right things – wouldn’t it be nice if people got on with each other better, and that post-war animosities disappeared? But it is awfully slow. The film’s trailer contains a review quote calling it “poetic”, which is usually a way of saying that nothing much happens.
I must admit, I wasn’t paying my best attention this afternoon, although this is, at least in part, the film’s fault. It offered little to draw me into the action. In fact, it didn’t offer very much action at all. Enclave is only an hour and a half long, but I was still ready for it to end. Nonetheless, it does tell us an important message and tries to shake a Western audience out of the complacent belief that war does not end when the final bullet is shot.
I didn’t find Enclave as gripping as Grbavica, which showed last night as sort-of double bill. Both films deliver a similar message about very recent wars from a region that it’s difficukr for white Europeans to ignore. As such, it’s good that Enclave was made, especially if it makes a Western audience think about their home nation’s responsibility for the Balkan wars. Nonetheless, I wasn’t really in the mood for it today.