SLAMDANCE 2020 FILM REVIEW! Experimental storytelling can be a fascinating beast. Take, for instance, the elliptical nature of Majnuni. This is the not-so-clear story of Adnan (Adnan Omerovic), a man who has dealings and entanglements with a series of characters throughout one night in Sarajevo. Part Linklater, part Altman, and firmly Eastern European, Majnuni explores the lives of a disparate group of individuals all residing in a city as torn as they are. The film works more for the story of souls connected than its style.
We begin as Adnan is schlepping a drunk man (Barry Del Sherman) home. Opening the door, the drunken man’s wife (Nela Bazdar) is aghast at the sight before her. The lady thanks Adnan for looking after him, only to have Adnan then offer her a roll of bills insisting, “This is your money.” The woman refuses the cash and, disgusted with the whole situation, throws Adnan out. From this first scene, we are left with far more questions than answers and, it seems that is precisely what writers Adnan Omerović, Drew Hoffman, and Kouros Alaghband are going for.
With long tracking shots that hold on seemingly pallid action, directors Alaghband and Hoffman train us early on to observe. Entering a sort of dreamlike state of consciousness, Adnan breezes through one scenario after another, with few conventional storytelling devices utilized to guide us. Adnan, for instance, takes a hot bath after a long night only to retire to the couch. He then begins flipping channels, watching the moments of other character’s lives play out like a show on the screen before him. In another moment, he is suddenly attempting to make good with his performer girlfriend before suffering a seizure in a cab then stealing it. The actual story beats seem secondary to the characters and their condition.
“…explores the lives of a disparate group of individuals all residing in a city as torn as they are.”
There is a talent to be seen here, in particular with the stylish direction. The co-directors favor long shots and fill them with a quiet observational tone that draws in the audience. The patient viewer is rewarded with some particularly haunting moments. They have also assembled a respectable ensemble of characters that certainly hold the screen.
Truth be told I really would have loved to have seen a bit more of Nela Bazdar and her storyline involving a U.S. Ambassador. There are some achingly sad moments there that say quite a bit about staying with what we know even though it might not be the best for us.
I can’t say that I loved Majnuni. But I can say that I appreciated the movie for what it attempted to do in creating a new language in storytelling. For its experiments alone, Majnuni should be respected.
Majnuni screened at the 2020 Slamdance Film Festival.