Ever since Serbian director Emir Kusturica achieved well-deserved success with his Underground (1995) at the Cannes Film Festival where he won the coveted Palm d'Or Balkan directors have been rushing to film what Westerners believe to be it, Balkan reality: loud music celebrations, wacky (with full grown beards and mustaches) characters, a beautiful land controlled by warlords, black marketers, and the occasional UN peacekeepers. Danis Tanovic won his Oscar for Nikogarsnja zemlja a.k.a No Man's Land (2001), Damjan Kozole muddied the waters with his Rezervni Deli a.k.a Spare Parts (2003), and Emir Kusturica in his Zivot ze Cudo a.k.a Life is a Miracle (2004) insisted that since 1995 nothing has changed in the region. The latest film to claim that the Balkans are in a state of free falling is Bosnian director Pjer Zalica's Gori Vatra a.k.a Fuse (2004).
Tagged European Discovery of the Year at the European Film Awards Fuse walks its audience into a small Bosnian village shocked by the news that US president Bill Clinton is planning a visit. Prostitutes, corrupted cops, Christians, Muslims, and a few other colorful characters are quickly told by the US envoys that the village must be transformed into a model of peace, prosperity, and ethnic and religious tolerance.
But…it is easier said than done! The profitable arrangement between the local police chief and the head of the mafia is not to be disturbed; hence, Bill Clinton's visit is not exactly wanted here. Nor is the new "model of ethnic tolerance" represented by the formation of a Serb-Bosnian fire brigade. And…who is going to take care of all the UN soldiers if Balkan democracy's most cherished gift, the "escorts", is to be outlawed??
Kitsch, kitsch, and more kitsch, all of it Balkan style, is what Fuse offers to its viewers. As mentioned above the Balkan way of life a.k.a absurdity which Kusturica mainstreamed with his films is starting to reek of heavy odors that some may not like anymore. Even though I must admit that in Fuse most of what Pjer Zalica has mixed up actually has a manageable scent-the drunk, unshaved, and totally wacked-out characters you will see here are undoubtedly quite entertaining.
Yet, something in me is starting to revolt the idea that this much admired by film juries reality in the films of Serbian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Slovenian, and Bosnian directors who have in recent years gained exposure is actually a good thing. I notice an element of repetitiveness here which actually impedes the creative freedom of local directors quite a bit. Unless of course this is all they are capable of filming: absurd stories!
With all of that in mind Fuse is very much a politically correct film (even though for all the wrong reasons in my opinion). Through dark humor and plenty of kitsch Pjer Zalica's camera has captured what I am convinced will be appreciated by Western viewers though underneath the bizarre behavior of the main characters there is a much heavier sense of desperation. Is caricaturing the wrong and ugly the only way to denounce it? I am unsure!!
How Does the DVD Look?
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and enhanced for widescreen TV's Fuse, just like all previous films part of the Global Lens Collection, has been sourced from a PAL master. The results however are not that poor! Put aside the noticeable "ghosting" and the rest is actually quite manageable: colors are mostly well reproduced (the darker scenes are a bit of an issue here), detail is slightly off, the film print does not reveal any substantial damage, and edge enhancement is not noticeable on regular tubes. The bigger problem here is that through selected scenes macro-blocking pops up and this might bother some viewers. This being said I am mostly satisfied with how the film looks as it is actually a small miracle that a DVD of it is being released. So…take it (and see it) or leave it!!
How Does the DVD Sound?
The only audio track present here is a decent Bosnian-Serbian 2.0 mix. There isn't much to discuss here as the basics are covered: I did not detect any disturbing hissing or pop-ups and the dialog was very easy to follow. There are no special effects in this film that would have enriched your viewing experience had a 5.1 mix been provided so in all honesty the 2.0 track is perfectly acceptable.
Aside from the generic trailers for the Global Lens Collection and a modest photo gallery there is very interesting statement by the director of Fuse (in text format) in which he explains the reasoning(s) behind his film. Not much of a surprise in my opinion given the enormous impact the war in Bosnia had on those who had to endure it-take a look at it!
I enjoyed this film very much but probably for all the wrong reasons (I liked its dark and gloomy aura, not the humor)! As I noted above I am becoming increasingly weary of the style which many Balkan directors seem to be favoring at the moment. Yet, perhaps this is all they could do to get noticed! Regardless, if you are willing to swallow the average video presentation and are in a mood for something different give this film a chance-you will be surprised how much you'll end taking away from it.