Found this to be a very well-acted, interesting drama. It was awesome to see young actors at the center of the story, Tristan Halilaj is great as Nik and this is definitely one to check out if you like foreign films. Highly recommended.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Fantastic performances and great direction and cinematographyAug. 17 2012
- Published on Amazon.com
From the first lingering shot of the idyllic Albanian landscape, with majestic mountains in the background and windswept fields in the foreground, director Joshua Marston immerses the viewer in a powerful fictional tale about a very real issue -- the impact on the families who end up inheriting the "sins of the fathers" from violent blood feuds in one of the poorest European countries.
The beginning of the story quickly sets up the jarring contradictions faced by contemporary Albanians -- horse-drawn carriages alongside motorized vehicles, livestock on the soccer fields, adults and elders clinging to ancient oral traditions while the younger generation is wrapped up in videogames, television, Internet-enabled computers, and handheld mobile devices.
The greatest service Marston does is to shed light on this paradox as the Old clashes with the New, placing the seemingly unfathomable tradition of regulated blood feuds in human context. We see it played out to dramatic effect as a rivalry over land and access to a previously open road turns deadly. The key moment takes place off-camera, leaving it to our imaginations to determine whether it was truly an act of criminal murder or one of justifiable self defense. Emotions run high on both sides, so who is to blame and who is to be believed? The story is told through the eyes of young Nik, who must endure prolonged house arrest for what his father and uncle are accused of doing, and younger Rudina, who must become a primary income provider for her family, all of whom suddenly are tormented by an incident they neither participated in nor witnessed.
The performances of the entire cast are amazing, especially Refet Abazi as Mark, the father, whose every moment of screen time is like lightning trapped in a bottle, waiting to explode. He is at once sympathetic, noble, full of righteous fury, and boiling danger right beneath the surface.
The most amazing performances are by Tristan Halilaj as Nik and Sindi Lacej as Rudina, because this is the first acting job for both young stars, yet they manage to bring a genuine believability to their characters. Nik is transformed from a flirtatious youth dreaming of starting a cyber-cafe to a stir-crazy man yearning for freedom, trapped within the walls of his house and the prison of his own adolescent body. Rudina's journey is even more endearing and heartbreaking as she starts out as a bubbly girl happily sharing what she learned in school with her father and quickly has to grow up and become street-smart to save her family. Watching Rudina's brave actions in the face of crisis and all of her endearing moments of growth were, for me, some of the best moments of the film. Marston does a spectacular job of directing them and building on their natural instincts -- he even manages to give the family's beloved horse, Klinsmann, a personality.
It is not hard to imagine how an archaic legal code (the "Kanun" as Albanians call it) by Leke Dukagjini in the fifteenth century is still adhered to today by some. We have seen it in the frontier towns of America's mythologized Wild West, and in the true life American blood feud sensationalized by the Hatfields and the McCoys. What might seem a repulsive, amoral practice of "eye for an eye" vigilantism is actually a much more complex, regulated system in search of justice, which is often elusive in the power vacuum of post-Communist Albania, still facing economic hardships, low employment, and poor infrastructure. As people in authority and on the fringes take advantage of the systems for their own gain, the victims who seem to suffer most are the innocent masses -- the hardworking families struggling to make ends meet while holding on to their pride and ethics, and most tragically the children facing an unsure future.
The Forgiveness of Blood is an important portait of an Albanian culture in transition told as an engaging drama that will keep filmgoers on the edge of their seats, wondering what will happen next. It is a movie that deserves to be seen and discussed.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Our Story TooNov. 1 2012
Joseph L. Ponessa
- Published on Amazon.com
I ordered this film to try to understand more about the cultural background of a story from my own family lore. My grandmother told the story of "Zio Francesco" who was a shepherd in Calabria in the previous century. The local bandits (now they would be called organized crime) would come periodically to take one or two of his flock, but he was a poor man and the result was real hardship. Finally he informed the carabinieri (local police) where they could find the bandits. They escaped, and the man knew that he could no longer leave the house without being killed. So, each day, he would send his small son out with the sheep. One day there was a thick fog, and the boy was afraid, so the man went out hoping to be veiled by the fog. But the bandits caught him and burned him alive. Albania is the only country that codified in writing the ancient vendetta law, called the Kanon, but it held the force of custom through wide swaths of the Mediterranean. Before Albania was Communist, before it was Muslim, before it was Christian, the vendetta law ruled. When Albania fell to the Turks, many Albanians fled to Italy and settled in their own villages in Calabria. (My grandmother callled them the "Grecchi.") It was about that time or a little later that the Kanon was written down, back in Albania. I don't know whether the Italo-Albanians ever adopted the written Kanon, or if their customs have changed over the years. Under Communism, the Kanon was suppressed, but since the fall of Communism it has been brought back, though many question whether a custom that was suppressed that long can ever return exactly as it was. The movie belongs to this period, and that helps to explain why there are so many opinions expressed in the film about how the Kanon should be enforced. The story is told from the point of view of the boy who has to stay inside, because he is just old enough to be under the ban. The end of the film is magnificent, a perfect resolution to what could easily have been a downer movie. One sees that the Kanon contains within itself some mechanisms for reconciliation. After watching the film, I feel like I have spent a couple of hours in today's Albania, and maybe in Calabria of two hundred years ago as well. This one is a keeper.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
While the landscape depicted here is beautiful, the human drama is interminable, out of date and "silly customs" tourismMarch 6 2014
- Published on Amazon.com
Joshua Marston, best known as the director of drug mule story MARIA FULL OF GRACE, gives us here a poignant depiction of blood feuds in northern Albania. The script was cowritten by Andamion Murataj, the film was shot on location, and the actors are all Albanians, some of them amateurs, speaking the authentic Gheg dialect of their region.
Nik (Tristan Halilaj) is in his last year of high school and dreams of opening an internet/computer game café in his small town. His sister Rudina (Sindi Lacej) hopes to go on to university. Their dreams are dashed, however, when their father (Refet Abazi) kills a neighbour in a dispute over land. To avoid revenge attacks from the dead man's family, the males of the family are forced to stay inside their home at all times, a situation that could last for years while the community mediates the feud. With the father out of work, Rudina is forced to drop out of school, deliver a bread route, and buy contraband cigarettes to sell at a profit.
Marston and his cowriter are clearly interested in depicting the intersection of two worlds in Albania: mobile phones and cheap motorbikes alongside ancient laws that hold a man's honour sacred. What weakens the film, however, is that nowhere is it made clear that blood feuds are not a typical feature of contemporary Albanian life: while they briefly erupted in the early 1990s after the fall of Communism, and some families still live under them, it is very unusual for one to start today. Without mentioning that things have changed, this film misrepresents Albania and misleads Western viewers towards a Boratish caricature.
Note how other reviews here and elsewhere tend to commend the film more for "teaching them something about Albania" than for cinematography or acting. The camerawork is completely unimaginative, lacking any carefully composed tracking shots and depending far too often on a seasick shaky handheld camera following a walking actor. While the acting isn't outright bad, the deficiencies in the script only make their amateur effort stand out. While life for the men in the family is tedious as they can't step out of the house, this point is already sufficiently made by halfway through the film, and yet the script goes on and on without anything more to say. The ending seems ad hoc and doesn't really follow from the body of the film.
Criterion's DVD/Bluray edition contains as extras some interviews with Marston and the main actors.
... of a window look into the Albanian culture a better understanding of how these people thinkAug. 23 2014
- Published on Amazon.com
Well done and it gave me a glimpse of a window look into the Albanian culture a better understanding of how these people think. Sadly the truth hurts to see a young boy exiled from seeing his family for his own safety and well being. Family can be difficult & now I see why the way these people are. But overall it was a very good movie that brought me to tears.
Another outstanding film from Joshua Marston. "The Forgiveness of Blood" is recommended!Nov. 30 2012
Dennis A. Amith
- Published on Amazon.com
Director Joshua Marsten may be known for directing many American drama series, but his 2004 Oscar-nominated film "Maria Full of Grace", caught the attention of many film critics for its natural, deep and surprising storyline of a young pregnant woman in Colombia working as a drug mule in order to raise money for her family.
This time around, Marsten takes his film to Albania where he focuses on Gjakmarrja (Albania feud). In Albania, a person can kill another person to save one's honor questioned by an earlier murder or moral obligation.
"The Forgiveness of Blood - The Criterion Collection #628″ is a film presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). "The Forgiveness of Blood" is a film that looks very good on Blu-ray, while low-light, night scenes do showcase a bit of noise, the picture quality of the film looks natural with a good amount of grain throughout the film.
I didn't see any major use of DNR throughout the film, nor did I notice any artifacts or any problematic situations while watching the film. If anything, picture quality for this film is very good.
According to the Criterion Collection, the transfer was approved by director of photography Rob Hardy and the new high-definition digital transfer was created on an ARRISCAN film scanner from the Super 16 mm negative.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
"The Forgiveness of Blood - The Criterion Collection #628″ is presented in Albanian 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Dialogue is crystal clear, as this is a film that primarily is dialogue-driven but while the families do live out in the country, there is good use in showcasing the ambiance of living in the country and hearing the sounds of dogs barking or insects as part of that ambiance.
According to the Criterion Collection, the soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the original digital audio master files using Pro Tools HD.
"The Forgiveness of Blood - The Criterion Collection #628" comes with the following special features:
Audio Commentary - Featuring audio commentary by director and co-writer Joshua Marston recorded in 2012. Truth on the Ground - (17:39) Producer Paul Mezey talks about the challenges and beauty of filming "The Forgiveness of Blood" in Albania. Featuring interviews with a few of the cast members. Acting Close to Home - (23:28) Refet Abazi, Tristan Halilaj and Sindi LAcej discuss blood feauds in Albania and connecting with thier characters. Auditions and Rehearsals - Tristan Halilay and Sindi Lacej's auditions (9:25) and primary cast rehearsal of one scene with director Joshua Marston (10:07). Spoken in Albanian and English. Trailer - (2:24) The original theatrical trailer for "The Forgiveness of Blood".
"The Forgiveness of Blood - The Criterion Collection #628" comes with a 20-page booklet with the following essay "How Things Work" by Oscar Moralde.
"The Forgiveness of Blood" will probably be a film that will help people understand Albanian culture and eventually learning about how blood feuds take place and how it can affect an entire family.
Featuring a believable performance by young actors Tristan Halilaj (who plays Nik) and Sindi Lacej (who plays Rudina), "The Forgiveness of Blood" is a film that features honest portrayals of a family that must adhere to Albania law but also giving people a chance to see life and laws that people many not really understand.
The whole blood feud, I have heard before. But the concept of kanun or besa, I was not familiar with.
We know the boredom and the difficulty that Nik faces as a teenager who is supposed to live his youth with freedom and have fun with his friends. But because his family caused the murder to another family, in order to stop a war between the families, Albanian law dictates that the men of the family must stay home in their house. Call it home incarceration, but as a teenager and having only contact with your family and no freedom to leave is too difficult for Nik as he is a young man that should grow up to find love, to have friends and enjoy that part of his life.
For Rudina, her life is severely altered as well. A straight A student with a life ahead of her, because her father is now stuck at home and is not allowed to leave his property, she and her mother must now be the breadwinners. She must bare the burden of having to work long hours, trying to make money for the family and feed them. And for a young teenage girl, similar to Nik, she is being deprived of her family, her friends and as a person who enjoyed her education and excelled at it, her life will be altered forever.
But how long can these children be forced to live this way of life? How long can a family live a life of being confined to their home.
Suffice to say, director Joshua Marston gives people a chance to see how the "gjakmarrja" affects families and also a rarity to see in today's modern cinema.
And once again, another film for Joshua Marston of taking on challenging storylines and showcasing a side of society or culture that people are not familiar with and covering it with efficacy. At first, the Albanian actors were unsure what an American director was planning on doing, but Marston who did thorough research before working on the film, was able to convince the talent that he was creating a film not about the history of Albanian blood wars but showing how blood feud's can still affect today's generation. A generation, no matter how much technology is used by today's young generation, laws are laws and they must followed. And everyone is affected by a blood feud.
As for the Blu-ray release, the film looks very good. Shot in Albania, the use of scenery and Albanian talent help create the believability of this film. Because the viewer is restricted to a certain location, you can understand and easily sympathize with Nik and Rudina. Picture quality is very good, featuring a good amount of grain, the lossless soundtrack also showcases the ambiance heard out in the country from dogs to insects, once again, adds to the believability of the film.
And the film also has an insightful audio commentary, interviews and a thorough essay included as well!
Overall, "The Forgiveness of Blood" is another outstanding film from Joshua Marston. A gripping storyline which immerses the viewer of Albanian culture and its blood feuds that remain relevant in modern society. "The Forgiveness of Blood" is recommended!