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When Father Was Away on Business

5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Actors: Moreno D'E Bartolli, Predrag Manojlovic, Mirjana Karanovic, Mustafa Nadarevic, Mira Furlan
  • Directors: Emir Kusturica
  • Writers: Abdulah Sidran
  • Producers: Mirza Pasic
  • Format: Color, Dolby, DVD-Video, Letterboxed, Subtitled, NTSC
  • Language: Croatian
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • MPAA Rating: R
  • Studio: eOne Films
  • Release Date: May 24 2005
  • Run Time: 136 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
  • ASIN: B0007G8FNQ
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #34,757 in DVD (See Top 100 in DVD)
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Product Description

When Father Was Away On Business

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Format: VHS Tape
This is one of my all-time favorite movies! The atmosphere is dreamlike - expressed in the boy's sleepwalking and the unrepressable subconscious - a thing that communism disavows. Thus, the boy's very being becomes an expression of natural defiance toward the coming communist regime under Tito and its spirit-crushing regime. A classic flic. Highly recommended.
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By A Customer on June 12 2000
Format: VHS Tape
It doesn't have the glossy polish of his later and better-known films, but to me this is Kusturica's best. It's totally sincere, beautifully acted by every single actor and actress, it's interesting, funny, tragic,loveable. Everything that his other films also are but better.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0xa4f6d9fc) out of 5 stars 11 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa4a9be40) out of 5 stars There Are Two Sides to Every Story but the Communist Official Decides which is the Real One April 23 2010
By Erika Borsos - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
With a good sense of humor and compassion for the common people, Emir Kusturica captures the seriousness of the times and the fears associated with living under Communism in Yugoslavia in the early 1950s. The story is told from the viewpoint of Malik a boy who is 6 years of age. It was during a family gathering to celebrate Malik's recovery from a very personal surgical procedure that his father Mesha is escorted to a waiting car and taken away ... Malik's mother knew of her husband's serious predicament but neither she nor her husband were told the exact reason he was sent to prison. Mesha was given a vague explanation that he was somehow disloyal to the Communist party by his brother-in-law who was the high ranking Communist official that had arranged for Mesha's deportation to a labor camp. Malik is told by his mother that his father is "away on business" which at the time sounded plausible because his father used to take overnight business trips that lasted from one to several days. It was only after his mother started sewing to bring in extra money to meet everyday living expenses and the fact that his father did not return or communicate with the family that Malik suspected things were not as he was told. Through the grapevine, his mother learned that her brother's lover had something to do with Mesha's prison sentence. She visited this sexy siren who was the gym instructor at the local school. The students there get an unexpected impromptu lesson in hand-to-hand combat between two women.

Sometime later, after Mesha serves his sentence and returns to the family, he learns it was an off-the-cuff remark he made to his lover about a political cartoon in the local newspaper which got him imprisoned. At the beginning of the film, Mesha's lover confronted him, demanding he divorce his wife and marry her. He promised nothing because he liked the spontaneous arrangements just as they were. Not long after this affair, Mesha's complex problems with the Communist official who also was his brother-in-law began. Two questions arise in the mind of the viewer, did she report Mesha's remarks to the high ranking official as revenge because Misha would not leave his wife? Did Mesha's brother-in-law provide this extreme form of punishment for a seemingly casual remark which was obviously a joke because he wanted this sexy young woman all to himself? My suggestion is to view the film and discover the answer for yourself ...

This most excellent film begins with people working out in the fields, while an elderly man is singing a Mexican song. Two young boys are climbing trees and having a good time as they join him in the refrain. Later, the singer is asked why he sings Spanish lyrics to which he replies that in this day and age it is much safer to sing in Spanish than one's native language. Throughout this highly endearing film there are many enjoyable, memorable scenes which often depict an understated dark humor that helps balance the serious aspects of the film. Emir Kusturica creates numerous light moments, along with heart-warming, poignant scenes as well as events and interactions that are deeply thought-provoking. The director/producer works wonderful ethnically accurate celebrations into the film which were the norm in Sarajevo during that era. Kusturica provides the viewer many points to ponder as the film explores the interwoven lives of the various characters which intersect like the beautiful hand embroidered cross-stitch patterns for which the region is known! Erika Borsos [pepper flower]
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa4aa3d5c) out of 5 stars Where the political becomes personal..... June 12 2009
By Matthew Watters - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
A surprisingly well-crafted dark comedy in which the political -- the exceedingly paranoid life behind the Iron Curtain in the 1950s, when a passing expression of criticism of the Party could result in one being whisked off to a forced labour camp -- becomes exceedingly personal, a psychodrama played out within a single family. The film has one of the best opening sequences of any film, anywhere, a Bosnian peasant man sings Mexican folk songs with back-up vocals from two chubby little boys picking bay leaves in a tree, as he flirts with a young babushka driving a fence post until, in her distraction, she slams the pile driver into her foot. This whole sequence is such an amusingly peculiar clash of cultures, it's hard to imagine the rest of film could live up to it ... but it manages to, in its portrait of a Party hack with two young sons and a weakness for playing around on his wife. Sent to prison for a casual remark by his Stalinist brother-in-law, he and his extended family are not really an allegory (as one reviewer here intimates) but more like archetypes in a time of rapidly changing political fortunes, from pro-Soviet to pro-Tito regimes. The film lacks striking images but is a work of nuanced storytelling, with a fine eye for detail and (literally!) gallows humour.....
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa4d3b18c) out of 5 stars Sleepliving Under Communism April 9 2007
By Artist & Author - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I think the little boy's sleepwalking is a sort of metaphor for life in general in communist Yugoslavia in the early 1950s. This movie shows how even the most mild comment could result in imprisonment. It also shows how one evil relative could ruin the lives of his sister's family by his blind allegiance to the Party line. So, the only way to cope was to sleepwalk through life. However, this is also a strong family story of survival. Even though the father could not seem to remain faithful to his wife, he clearly did love her and he especially loved his two sons. So, the family pulls together to cope with both communism and infidelity. This isn't the kind of movie that gives one a good feeling at the surprising climax; it is more a picture or slice of life under communism.

Several of the synopsis and reviews of this movie show it at 144 minutes; however, the DVD sold in the U.S. shows it at 135 minutes. If that is right, I suspect that nine minutes have been censored because of the children's nakedness. I did think that the circumcision of Mesha seemed strange. At one point you see the surgical tools being clipped to his penis or near it, then suddenly he is recovering in bed. Also, there is a bath scene where Mesha's little girl friend, also about seven years old, is bathing. He starts to get into the tub with his under-shorts on, and she says to take them off. He does, and then they have a little conversation as they bathe about how he was changed when he was circumcised. They do show the two looking at each other's genitals in the clear water, and both are clearly seen. However, they are so innocent and unassuming about their sexual differences that I would not be surprised if they did a little playing naked when they were in the tub and when they got out, and this might have been too much for American censors. Not sexual playing, but ordinary playing as most American nudist children might.
HASH(0xb3a006f0) out of 5 stars Life Under Tito Feb. 29 2008
By Randy Keehn - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
"When Father was away on Business" is a movie that I became aware of because it was a nominee for Best Foreign Language Oscar. I have found that to be an interesting source of otherwise unheralded movies worth watching. This movie was certainly interesting. It is a Bosnian movie that examines the life in Communist Yugoslavia some thirty years early. There is a clear focus on the dangers of speaking freely in a totalitarian society. The results of such an indiscretion is what father was "away on business" for. Yet, after a period of forced labor, papa's punishment seemed a lot less restrictive. Indeed, when his freedom came, I had forgotten that he was still serving a sentence or being "re-educated" or whatever. Father is an interesting character but he disappoints us a lot.

The focus of the movie is on the young boy Malik. He's about 8 or 9 years old and serves as our narrator. This is very effective (somewhat along the lines of "My Life as a Dog") and gives us a humorous perspective of the tainted world we're observing. Malik has a bad habit of sleepwalking and become quite acrobatic in his wanderings. He's a good kid who tries to do right but doesn't always succeed. His mother is a strong woman who clearly deserved better (such as a better husband, a better brother, a better father) but at least she has her two boys.

I'm glad I took the opportunity to watch this movie. The scenes of life in Yugoslavia interested me as well as the inter-actions of the cast of characters with one another. I do not consider this a "Great" movie but I do consider it a movie worth watching if for no other reason than for the opportunity to get to know Malik.
16 of 24 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa4e708dc) out of 5 stars Must see movie. May 25 2005
By RamboAmadeus - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
I am quite amazed that there are no recommendations or comments on this picture from folks once lived life of Malik in ex-Yugoslavia. "The boy's very being does (not) becomes an expression of natural defiance toward the coming communist regime under Tito and its spirit-crushing regime" (cited /

re-worded from last comment) - he is just stepping out of his childhood.

On June 28th. 1948 (what a coincidence - on a same date in 1389 Turk army defeated Serbian army on Kosovo field and on a same date Gavrilo Princip in 1914 committed Sarajevo assassination on Austrian prince Ferdinand - creating excuse for Germany to start 1st.(Great) World War) members of Stalin's Informbiro kicked Yugoslavia out of membership of Joint European Communist Party.

That event gives birth to this movie.

I would recommend much deeper research to interested party on happenings in Yugoslavia (1945-1948 USSR -Yugoslavia relations) in order for that party to get a real feel for Yugoslav society happenings after Resolution of Inforbiro (Bucharest 1948). Eastern block sanctions towards Yugoslavia, few 5 year plans to swim out of those sanctions and hostile breakout from East produced deviant political society of 50's Yugoslavia.

Why am I writing all this historical rubbish?

It is an attempt to make you watch this movie again with (now) seeing Malik as Yugoslavia, his dreams as the Yugoslavian nation dreams, his sick and dying (first love) girlfriend as USSR, his mother as Tito, his father as all innocent Yugoslav political prisoners from early 50's, his father's policeman jailer and friend as Informbiro (Stalin), his father's girlfriend as only good reason to spend some time in political prison....etc...etc... And then comment me back. Or ask me for more info.

I am finding this movie context extremely complex. Being loaded with very hard to catch metaphors doesn't help its easy understanding.



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