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Alimani`s Amnesty
© Electra Venaki
First Publication: altcine 24-09-2011
 
 
   
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Exquisitely filmed and masterfully structured, “Amnesty” toys with the audience from the first frame to the last and mesmerizes with its acting and direction as well its screenplay and editing.
Bujar Alimani’s characters gradually acquire an intense eroticism that electrified the audience. A woman and a man are physically and psychologically raped in the name of progress—that is, the drive to reform Albania’s penitentiaries to meet European Union demands for the country’s accession.
But how prepared is a country to introduce so violently similar changes into its culture?

Alimani plays with the audience from the very start. We’re introduced to the characters together and believe that they are until we realize that skillful editing only makes it appear so and that they are actually apart. As the film unfolds, we realize there are two parallel stories and wait for them to merge. We wait for the main characters to merge. It’s a superb lingering that allows the viewer to enjoy the scenes, to be drawn into the action’s inactivity solely through the anticipation of the characters’ union—and the curiosity over how this will come about.

Expectation is one charm of fairy tales. We may know a couple but are hooked when someone offers to tell us a story of how they met. Patiently we endure the sweet agony of waiting as the tale follows its twists and turns until we learn what we want: how they met. This is precisely what Alimani does in “Amnesty”. From the very start, he lets us know that these two strangers will meet. But how. Patience You’ll see. We’ll see. We did.

Spetim and Else are each married and their spouses are in jail. She lives in Pogradec and he lives in Tirana. They meet—by chance?—at Tirana prison on visiting day—the first Thursday—every month. Trapped between European Union law and their personal baggage and guilt, they’re raped psychologically and physically by their respective spouses. The love that binds them is inevitable and liberating to the end—and it alone has the right to discreetness. In contrast with the mandatory conjugal sex that is exposed to public view, the love between these two characters is between them and not for us, the audience.

With a slight wink at Visconti—who didn’t give a single scene to the oppressive husband in his first film “Ossessione” (1943, a free adaptation of James Cain’s “The Postman Always Rings Twice”)—does the same here with wisdom and grace. In Visconti’s film, the husband doesn’t merit a scene because he’ll die midway through the film, he’s oppressive and slimy, and he stands in the way of Gino and Giovanna’s love.
In Alimani’s “Amnesty”, the spouses don’t die, yet they don’t get a single scene. Since the film’s protagonists don’t love them, there’s no reason for us to bother with them either, Alimani says. On the other hand, this nebulous presence, the fact that neither has a face, rules out any possibility that the viewer might identify with these characters while at the same time highlighting the issue of rape.
The film’s third protagonist is Elsa’s father-in-law who lives with her and his grandchildren. Alone, defeated by life, he does whatever he can to save what he holds most sacred. This, of course, is the family—an institution that is strong even in a crumbling society.

There’s also Joy. It’s personified by a young female prisoner who marries her beloved in jail, and thus providing the occasion for the two protagonists to meet. She’s young, happy, strong, and completely adjusted to the new order of things. And she’s pregnant. She delivers this news, and she finds happiness. For her, amnesty is a gift, while for the two protagonists it’s a vehicle for deliverance.

“Amnesty” is a film that holds the audience with the power of its scenes: close-ups that fill the frame and allow time for characters and audience to express their feelings; long shots that fill the characters and the movie theater with despair. Combined, they create a world that’s unknown to many but familiar to us because that world is our neighborhood—the Balkans.

Aliman’s film has won numerous festival awards. It’s due out in Greek theaters this week (distributed by One From the Heart) and will be screened on September 26 at the International Human Rights Film Festival at the Academy of Film & Multimedia Marubu in Tirana and will be released for theaters shortly after. Amnesty will be also screened on September 30 (competition program) at the Pristina International Film Festival. The film has already been released for theaters in Paris.
Translated from greek by Diane Shugart  

 
 
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Category
 
 
 
 
  Amnesty
 
  Bujar Alimani
  Karafil Shena
  Luli Bitri
  Todi Llupi
  Mirela Naska
 
  Corrected list of submissions of Balkan films to the 84th Academy Awards
  Amnesty: A brief encounter
 
 
 
 
 
  Pristina International Film Festival Program
  International Human Rights Film Festival Albania Program
 
 
 
 
 
 
       
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