Sunday, April 22, 2012

Joshua Marston: The Forgiveness of Blood

Tristan Halilaj, The Forgiveness of Blood, IFC Films, 2012.

Inspired with a clarity and strength of vision it takes many directors whole careers to attain, prodigy Joshua Marston makes his sophomore feature with the unforgettable The Forgiveness of Blood.

Set in the back hill country of modern-day Albania, Marston unflinchingly follows a tight-knit family as they become embroiled in a blood feud over land with another family. The story is very familiar, and yet, Marston tells it as if he invented it, every Shakespearean element. His affinity for realism and naturalistic actors is rare these days; Loack, Leigh, and the Dardennes come directly to mind. His debut film, Maria Full of Grace, portrayed drug trafficking in South America, specifically humanizing one Colombian woman who becomes a drug mule. His second film feels more evolved, thematically and psychologically, than his first.

Tristan Halilaj gives one of the year's breakout performances as Nik, the eldest son who must step up as man of the family after his father goes into exile. The angst on this gifted young actor's face speaks volumes. Similarly affecting is Sindi Lacej as his sister Rudina, who takes over the father's job so as to continue earning money for their mom and younger siblings.

Working in unison with co-scripter Andamion Murataj, Marston steeps us in a hidden world of old-fashioned beliefs and traditions. Director of photography Rob Hardy finds the just-right smokey palette which evokes the mountains, farming, mystery. Editor Malcolm Jamieson follows Marston's cue in shaping a semi-obscure world far removed from ours, yet goading us to fall into its lovely rhythms.

For, here in the 'wilds" of Albania, an artist has birthed a world which does exist, but has birthed it in his own beautiful way, so that we can feel, hear, see, know - another life similar to ours.

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