BERLIN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2021 REVIEW! Igor Drljača’s elegiac drama The White Fortress takes a bold swing at covering multiple bases. It’s an account of a post-war city, torn, lost, and violent, where seeds of love may germinate but never reach the light. It’s an indictment of a political regime that allows for small-time crooks with big-time egos to preside over entire districts, keeping their already-devastated residents in constant fear. It’s an examination of two classes colliding and how their perspectives differ. It’s a despondent fairy tale of sorts.
Last but not least, it’s a coming-of-age story with an endearing protagonist. Does it lose focus from time to time? Sure, and its cumulative effect suffers because of it, but Drljača nails the little moments that matter. In other words, The White Fortress amounts to less than the sum of its often-breathtaking parts.
“…Faruk is tasked with escorting an escort, Minela (Farah Hadzić), to a particularly abusive client...”
When young Faruk (Pavle Čemerikić) isn’t taking care of his ailing mom, he runs deals on his scooter for his cousin, Almir (Kerim Čutuna), who in turn works for big-time mobster Cedo (Ermin Bravo). Cedo has an affinity for feeding disobedient, thieving goons to street dogs. One day, Faruk is tasked with escorting an escort, Minela (Farah Hadzić), to a particularly abusive client, as well as finding a new girl for Cedo. The young man makes a crucial wrong move – involving scaffolding and a borrowed truck – and Cedo expects retribution.
In the meantime, with newfound confidence, Faruk purchases a hip new shirt and woos Mona (Sumeja Dardagan) at the mall. Mona hails from a privileged family but calls her parents bureaucrats and complains about having to move to Canada. They fall for each other, Romeo and Juliet-style. Of course, Faruk’s shady dealings catch up with the lovebirds. Things are left on a purposefully cryptic note – the insinuation is clear, but whether it functions as profoundly as the filmmaker intended is questionable. I, personally, thought the characters deserved more, even if the intent was to dishonor them in the way their city does.
"…what a cold, albeit beautiful, city Sarajevo is."