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TRIESTE 2021

Review: So She Doesn't Live

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- Faruk Lončarević's harrowing third feature is based on the real-life event of the murder of a young woman in a small Bosnian town

Review: So She Doesn't Live
Aida Bukva and Dino Sarija in So She Doesn't Live

So She Doesn’t Live, the third feature by Bosnian director Faruk Lončarević (With Mom [+see also:
film review
interview: Faruk Loncarevic
film profile
]
), which has just world-premiered at the Trieste Film Festival (21-30 January), is the grim story of a murder, based on a real-life event. The director positions the issue squarely as a result of the circumstances in a particular society – but despite being very strongly rooted in Bosnian specificities, it is easy to imagine this story taking place anywhere else.

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We meet the main character, and the victim, 24-year-old Aida (Aida Bukva), as she wakes up in the bed of her new, older boyfriend. We soon learn that she is being stalked by an ex-boyfriend whom she left because he hit her. We also realise that she is a woman who wants to live her life on her own terms, independently, as she declines her boyfriend's offers to help her find a better job, instead of her current one in the textile factory in their small town.

Meanwhile, we get to meet her killers, too. First, we see Suad (Enes Kozličić) engrossed in his morning prayer at home, and in the following scene, he is having his first sexual experience at a brothel while Aida's ex, Kerim (Dino Sarija), impatiently waits outside, having apparently arranged it for his younger pal.

After Aida refuses Kerim's last attempt to get back together, Lončarević shows us the grim, nightmarish scene of her murder. Completely forsaking blood and gore, the director makes it feel horrifyingly realistic and excruciating – and this is not only due to its extended duration.

Shot in only five days on a budget of €20,000, but every bit as accomplished as a "proper" European production, the film consists fully of long, tableau-like scenes shot with DoP Alen Alilović's fixed camera, which Lončarević edited himself into a simple succession of sequences. Each scene is a set piece with actors moving inside the frame, and the lack of music is offset by some detailed sound design, which, in the last half an hour, is completely occupied by the deafening sound of the river on which Aida dies.

In other instances, we hear the radio reporting on disastrous floods and The Hague trial of Serbian leader Radovan Karadžić, sentenced to 40 years for his crimes in the Bosnian War. Lončarević sets the story firmly in the Bosnian social environment, but like he did in his decidedly urban previous film, With Mom, steers clear of poverty porn and presents his country as unhappy, but beautiful and dignified.

Despite the inevitable presence of the patriarchal orientation of Bosnian society and its history of violence on both the national and individual levels, it is not the treatment of women or their position that are in the film's main focus. The murder, the way that Lončarević depicts it, is not a result of jealousy or passion: it is cold-blooded and calculated. This is simply about power – they did it because they were able to. The director makes sure that this is clear by keeping a certain distance through his tableau-like approach, and often placing the characters in juxtaposition with nature – a thick forest plays an important literal and symbolic role.

Although based on a very specific case from a particular country, the film focuses on the primal, animalistic, predatory instinct in humans. Thus, this is not a story of Bosnian society, but rather of what we consider human civilisation.

So She Doesn't Live was produced by Faruk Lončarević and Rusmir Efendić.

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