IT MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS OF TABIJA!
Life for young Faruk in a post-war Sarajevo couldn’t be more difficult, doing some small scrap metal gigs along with his uncle, and some illegal work for a local mobster, just to provide for him and his sick grandmother. When asked to find a girl to force her to become a prostitute, Faruk rejects the job by falling in love with that same girl. Mona is from the other side of this polarized town, being the daughter of a successful couple who wants to send her to Canada in order to pursuit a better life; but Mona quickly falls in love with Faruk, and being from different worlds, their love is tested to its limits.
Tabija, or The White Fortress, is premiering this year in Berlinale‘s Generation section. It’s directed by Igor Drljaca, a filmmaker with an unique style, relying on symetric camera angles, and a color palette that sticks to the eye of the viewer. It’s a kind of modern day Romeo and Juliet approach that deals with very distinguishable backgrounds to give particular traits to the characters and it’s rich in metaphors. Although very stylistic, Tabija kind of sets a vague look onto this world, numbing the audience with its beautiful settings and colorful world, but ultimately becomes shallow in deepening its story. A peacefulness surrounding the characters makes us unaware of what will happen to them, gradually feeding our curiosity, but ultimately the conclusion lacks a grip to make us emotionally invested in caring for them.
Some of the symbolisms that Drljaca uses are extremely interesting, especially by the constant presence of dogs, who are either missing or present in key scenes, giving a sense of belonging and, of course, cuteness. This connection of being a stray dog in a neighborhood that hurts it more than actually helps it find a home, is the perfect way to protray how Faruk feels with his own lifestyle; like Mona, who has everything she needs but the love of her estranged parents. This is an amazing and artful way to bring this simplistic story to a whole new level, even if these symbolisms may not reach every one.
Tabija is an enjoyable work from a filmmaker who clearly wants to rise in the industry, and even if he needs to perfect some aspects of how he exposes the story, is a competent twist in the common teenage drama romance. Soapy, but never melodramatic, Tabija is a sweet embrace of the Lady and the Tramp formula that has some charm, but should make bolder actions in order to layer its characters and make them more appealing to the public. Even so, Tabija has a final act that leaves room for interpretation and runs away from the typical clichés we are accostumed to watch in Hollywood mainstream productions. With good performances, especially by leading young man Pavle Cemerikic, Tabija is a decent exercise that focuses on the difficulties of running away from a dangerous life, and searching for a happiness that ultimately seems too far to catch.
It may not be for everybody’s taste, and it certainly could be more intense, but Igor Drljaca is definitely a director to keep an eye from now on, since his style clearly elevates the subtle story and makes it artistically rich, metaphorically beautiful and undeniably enjoyable to watch.
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Title: The White Fortress
Original Title: Tabija
Director: Igor Drljaca
Duration: 90 min.
Trailer | Tabija