As If I Am Not There (18)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner29/06/2011

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 125 mins

Impressively directed and superbly shot, this is an emotionally powerful, harrowing drama with a terrific performance from newcomer Natasha Petrovic.

What's it all about?
Directed by Irish director Juanita Wilson and based on the novel by Slavenka Drakulic, As If I Am Not There is set in Bosnia-Herzegovina during the war in the 1990s. Natasha Petrovic stars as Samira, a beautiful, idealistic young teacher from Sarajevo who travels to a remote village in the mountains to start work as a teacher.

However, Samira has barely completed her first day at work before the village is invaded by gun-toting soldiers who shoot all the men and imprison all the women, intending to use the older ones for labour and the younger ones for sexual gratification. After a horrific ordeal at the hands of her captors, Samira's situation appears to change when she comes under the protection of a seemingly kindly commanding officer (Fedja Stukan).

The Good
Macedonian newcomer Natasha Petrovic delivers a terrific performance as Samira. She has hardly any dialogue but Wilson keeps the camera tight on her beautiful face for many of her scenes, eliciting a powerful emotional response as we both fear for her (her exceptional looks make her an obvious target) and wonder what we would do in her situation.

Petrovic's lack of speech extends to the film as a whole; several scenes unfold without significant dialogue and are extremely powerful as a result, particularly in the first half of the film when the silence can be read either as Samira's traumatised reaction or as a simple wish to keep quiet in order to not bring attention to herself. The film is also beautifully shot throughout, courtesy of Tim Fleming's stunning cinematography, which makes the most out of the striking mountain landscapes.

The Bad
That said, the powerful effect of the lack of dialogue is undermined by an overly emotive, frequently manipulative score by Brian Cosby. And it is also probably worth pointing out that if you're going to see this film based on Stellan Skarsgard's name appearing in the cast list, then you're going to be very disappointed, as he only makes a random appearance towards the end of the film.

Worth seeing?
Strikingly directed and superbly acted, As if I am Not There is a powerfully raw, emotionally harrowing drama that deserves to be seen, even if it's not exactly an easy watch.

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As If I Am Not There (18)
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Content updated: 13/12/2017 12:43

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