A Bitter Reminder

Fall 2013 - Danube Trip 023Strange to watch last night’s Netflix thriller, Harrison’s Flowers (clip, quite dark), recommended to us by our twenty-something guide in Croatia last fall. The movie wasn’t very good—predictable plot, relentless tank and submachine-gun fire—but the cast was good (Andie MacDowell, Adrian Brody, David Strathairn, Brendan Gleeson, Alun Amstrong). Roger Ebert’s review called Brody’s acting a tour de force, with his character using “attitude and cockiness to talk his way through touchy situations. Watch the way he walks them all through a roadblock. I don’t believe it can be done, but I believe he did it.”

The story, set in 1991, takes place during the height of the Croatian War of Independence, which U.S. media called the Yugoslav civil war, which has been barely covered in film (available here, anyway). It tells about an American photojournalist who disappears in the hotly contested Danube River town of Vukovar and the determination of his wife to travel there and find him, despite the awful risks. Said Roger Ebert about the unlikely plot, “There is a way in which a movie like this works no matter what.”

The interesting part to me was not just that it was shot in Croatia, but that Vukovar is where our river cruise docked, and I spent some time walking around it. Much has been rebuilt in the intervening years, of course, but there were still rubbly areas. Below is my photo of a famous scene from Vukovar, and the one above, taken near the port, certainly displays female determination. A 49 from the Rotten Tomatoes critics; though 77 of civilian reviewers liked it.

IMDb points out some amusing anachronisms in this movie, but don’t let the fluffs in terms of which tanks carried which identities put you off—I lost track of which side was which, and while politically that was key, cinematically, it was meaningless. The regenerated arm, though, I think I can explain: prosthesis.