A journey into a world of pain

CONFLICT: A Bosnian’s woman’s search for answers in a darkened theatre.

(Translated from English by Google Gtranslate)

Darkness There and Nothing More is not an easy film to watch. Tea Tupajic – who was just seven years old when the Yugoslav Civil War erupted, swiftly turning her hometown of Sarajevo into a besieged community – chooses a minimalist setting to seek answers from two former Dutch soldiers who were part of a UN force supposed to protest Bosnian Muslims from their Serb enemies.

Nor is this an easy film to understand unless the viewer has at least some idea of the history of the war in Bosnia, although arguably specific knowledge of the massacre at Srebrenica is not necessary, as Darkness There and Nothing More could be about any conflict, any failure of protection that people thought they had been afforded in horrific, evil circumstances.

Darkness There and Nothing More, a film by Tea Tupajic
Darkness There and Nothing More, a film by Tea Tupajic

A pitch-black auditorium

Set in an almost pitch-black auditorium (the Frascati Theatre, Amsterdam) and shot over one night, Tupajic’s debut documentary features just herself and two middle-aged men.

But before we meet Harm, still tortured with guilt over leaving a small boy he befriended to his fate when he left Bosnia (Srebrenica, we guess though are not explicitly told) just before Serbs massacred Bosniaks, and Frank, a character so closed off that he says nothing can touch his heart because it is hidden behind a wall of concrete, Tupajic introduces us to the darkness and nothing more.

For the first minute and a half or more, all we see is a black screen, gradually noises off emerge and, as our eyes become accustomed to the darkness, we see the outline of a woman rising from rest.

It is Tupajic, who sits upright as Harm enters, sits nearby, and they begin a sporadic conversation; it is fully 10 minutes into the film that we begin to hear anything substantive.

This is all part of Tupajic’s purpose. She is seeking to understand how it was that a couple of hundred young Dutch soldiers failed to protect boys and men seeking shelter in their base in fear of their lives. She wants to know the inner world of the men in whom so much hope had been invested by terrified Bosnians who, in the summer of 1995, faced heavily armed Serb forces intent on their extermination.

She is seeking to understand how it was that a couple of hundred young Dutch soldiers failed to protect boys and men seeking shelter in their base in fear of their lives.

Harm

She gropes for meaning with Harm – of the two who have answered her call to join her on this nocturnal mission – the more sensitive.

«I lost my trust in the UN during my service in Bosnia,» he tells her as he shows her a large tattoo he has covering his right shoulder. The tattoo depicts an eagle and the symbol for the Dutch army’s Third Battalion – known as the Dutchbatt III, based in Srebrenica. He says the tattoo represents the pride he feels in serving in that battalion, despite what happened in Bosnia.

The guilt he feels is survivor guilt; having befriended a young Bosnian boy who would hang around the camp, Harm was suddenly offered two weeks’ leave in July 1995 – and thus was back home when he saw TV footage that emerged after the infamous massacre . . .

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Nick Holdsworthhttp://nickholdsworth.net/
Our regular critic. Journalist, writer, author. Works mostly from Central and Eastern Europe and Russia.
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