Sat 5 Oct 2013
This time the translation in Hebrew got it right, following the original Italian title which says ‘Come to the world’ rather than the English title ‘Twice Born’. The film is indeed about bringing children to the a world in conflict, and it’s a powerful love story taking place during one of the most tragic and absurd war in Europe in the 20th century (but what war is not absurd?), a war that placed one against the other neighbors and friends who were the same blood and spoke the same language, the differences being buried back in history, mostly of religious origins. ‘The best stories are sometimes the weird ones’ tells one of the characters, and this is indeed a strange and a complicated, but also a very emotional love story taking place in tragic circumstances.
The story alternates between the time today, the period back 30 years ago when Communist Yugoslavia still existed and Sarajevo was known to the world as the location of the 1984 Winter Olympics, and the city 10 years later when it became the battle place in one of the most bloody episodes of the ethnic wars in the Balkans. It tells about the obsessive falling in love of two young and idealistic ‘western’ professionals Gemma and Diego (Penelope Cruz and Emile Hirsch) who happen to meet in Bosnia, then part of Yugoslavia, attracted there mostly by the original culture of the Balkans and by its people. They soon meet a group of mostly young and idealistic artists of the same kind who seem to live happily, aiming to create and make their world better. For much of the first half the story focuses on the love story of the couple, and the hurdles they meet on the road (they cannot have a child of their own). And then war breaks in this area which was not only the crossroad of the empires, but also their battlefield. The empires are gone, but the conflicts continues perpetuated by religion and by politicians. The world of the heroes blows apart.
The story is structured on alternate scenes from the trip taken in present in Bosnia by Gemma and her son and flashbacks from the two time periods (of the first encounter and the war). I liked the way director Sergio Castellitto kept perfect balance between the love story, the descriptions of the falling of Bosnia into war and the war itself, and the coming to age of the son (the directors own son Pietro Castellitto acting) – all three threads are clear, articulate, and conclude in a way that makes sense. To the excellent acting of Cruz and Hirsch I need to add the name of the Bosnian actor Adnan Haskovic who is playing the colorful and passionate Gojco, their friend of blood.
The conflict in Bosnia, and the wars in the former Yugoslavia already generated many films, some of them good, including the ones produced by artists from the area themselves. ‘Venuto al mondo’ is a co-production, mostly made in Italy, with local participation. It will probably stay as one of the solid and sensible films made about those mad years. This is a film which will also stay with all these who will have the chance to see it.