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Friday, 30 March 2012 00:00

Tension dominates 'The Forgiveness of Blood'

Tension dominates 'The Forgiveness of Blood'
Written by Diane Carson
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Set in a modern day, northern Albanian village, The Forgiveness of Blood zeroes in on a family trapped by the dictates of a punishing tradition. Trouble begins when a cantankerous resident named Sokol refuses to let bread salesman Mark in his horse cart cut across his field.

The landowner's subsequent murder by Mark and his brother instigates a blood feud that takes a tragic toll on the entire community. Because Mark flees and hides out, under the Albanian honor code of behavior called Kanun, the victim's family may take revenge by killing any of the guilty party's male relatives. This means that Mark's teenage son Nik now lives under house arrest, since he can't safely go anywhere. He's gregarious and infatuated with a classmate, and this doesn't sit well, plus he wanted to start an Internet café business. As impacted, sister Rudina must now make the bread deliveries, meaning she can't continue her promising studies.

At this year's Telluride Film Festival, director/co-writer Joshua Marston affirmed that blood feuds continue today as often as in the past with Albanian films dramatizing them. Marston wanted to shift the focus to the daily experience living within the world of the blood feud and virtual imprisonment. To that end, it is the aftermath of the reportedly accidental murder that plays out in tense scenes as the family navigates treacherous terrain. When a car speeds past and cuts off Rudina's horse cart, Marston has offered the perfect visual metaphor for the predicament, one he delivers without histrionics.

At Telluride, Marston also described the time he spent in northern Albania, talking with people there about blood feuds. He came away so impressed with the men and women that he cast quite a few of them, nonactors all, in his film. Marston made a name for himself with Maria Full of Grace, in which he tackled another intractable problem, namely the Colombian drug trade and ways impoverished individuals get dragged into dangerous activities as a drug mule. Marston has an artist's eye for compositions and a moral complexity that refuses to collapse into simplistic morality.

From beginning to end, the suspense and tension in The Forgiveness of Blood are palpable. Performances are exceptionally good in this multi-award winning film that places the viewer in the conflict. It also suggests parallels to many other counterproductive traditions and rituals. In Albanian with English subtitles. At a Landmark Theatre.

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