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The Forgiveness of Blood(2011)
Nik is a carefree Albanian teenager in a small town with a crush on the school beauty and ambitions to start his own internet café. His world is suddenly up-ended when his father and uncle become entangled in a land dispute that leaves a fellow villager murdered. According to a centuries-old code of law, this entitles the dead man's family to take the life of a male from Nik's family as retribution. His uncle in jail and his father in hiding, Nik is the prime target and confined to the home while his younger sister Rudina is forced to leave school and take over their father's business.
For more about The Forgiveness of Blood and the The Forgiveness of Blood Blu-ray release, see the The Forgiveness of Blood Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on October 31, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Refet Abazi, Tristan Halilaj, Sindi Lacej, Ilire Vinca Celaj
Director: Joshua Marston
» See full cast & crew
The Forgiveness of Blood Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, October 31, 2012
Screened at the Berlin International Film Festival, Joshua Marston's "The Forgiveness of Blood" (2011) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include original trailer for the film; discussion with producer Paul Mezey; video interview with actors Refet Abazi Tristan Halilaj, and Sindi Lacej; audio commentary with director Joshua Marston; and more. The release also arrives with an illustrated booklet featuring an essay by Oscar Moralde. In Albanian, with optional English subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
A small village in North Albania. Mark (Refet Abazi) and his family barely make ends meet. He sells bread from a small cart and works a piece of land not too far away from his house. Occasionally, he stops at the local inn to have a drink and hear the latest news.
One day, while having a drink Mark is challenged by Sokol (Veton Osmani), who does not like the fact that he routinely crosses his land with the cart. The two exchange some harsh words, but drink more and then go home to their wives.
On the following morning, Mark jumps in his cart together with his daughter Rudina (Sindi Lacej) and begins his usual rounds to sell the fresh bread he has picked up from the bakery. But when he reaches Sokol's land, he is shocked to discover that the road has been blocked. Sokol quickly comes forward and announces that from now on Mark will have to take a different route. Barely able to contain his anger, Mark walks away. Later that night, however, he returns with his brother, and Sokol is killed.
The news about Sokol's murder quickly spreads across the village. Mark goes into hiding while his brother is arrested by the police and thrown in jail. The members of Sokol's family demand justice - and then announce that they will kill Mark the moment he returns to his house. According to an ancient code known as the Kanun, they cannot touch his wife, his two sons, and Rudina. According to the same code, Mark's family also cannot leave the house until the family feud is resolved. This strange situation makes their lives incredibly miserable because everyone relies on the money Mark brings home after he sells the daily load of bread.
The drama that ensues is seen primarily through the eyes of Mark's oldest son, Nik (Tristan Halilaj), who has fallen in love with a local girl, and Rudina, who dreams of going to college. At first Nik and Rudina side with their family and try to help as best as they can, but eventually confront their parents and the old code that is dictating how they should live their lives. There is a particularly powerful sequence in which Nik questions his father after he sneaks back into the house and then attempts to explain to him why they can't be treated as prisoners.
The bigger story the film tells, however, is a lot more interesting. It is about a country in transition trying to open up to the world but still clinging to old ideas and beliefs. After more than 50 years of communist rule (even after its communist dictator Enver Hoxha died in 1985, for years Albania remained one of the most isolated countries in the world), today Albania is a place existing in a strange vacuum, where young people dream of being citizens of the world while older Albanians are reluctant to embrace it. The film very effectively captures the essence of this strange vacuum in which right and wrong are constantly redefined.
The Forgiveness of Blood is directed by American filmmaker Joshua Marston, who in 2004 won TFCA Award for Best First Feature with his excellent Maria Full of Grace. Despite the obvious language barrier, Marston's direction of the cast (comprised of non-professional Albanian actors) is terrific. The filmmaker also deserves a lot of credit for the excellent research which was performed to ensure that the viewer would understand why blood feuds in Albania still exist and are justified with the Kanun.
Note: The Forgiveness of Blood was selected to represent Albania in the foreign language category of the Oscars, but was disqualified because its director and various crew members were not Albanian nationals.
The Forgiveness of Blood Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Joshua Marston's The Forgiveness of Blood arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"Approved by director of photography Rob Hardy, this new high-definition digital transfer was created on an ARRISCAN film scanner from the Super 16mm negative.
Transfer supervisor: Paul Mezey.
Colorist: Tim Stipan/Technicolor, New York."
The presentation is up to the very high standards set by Criterion. The film has an appropriate raw look that boasts excellent warm, very natural colors and very pleasing clarity and depth. There are small contrast fluctuations between the daylight and nighttime footage, but they are part of the film's cinematography. Traces of problematic lab tinkering are nowhere to be seen. Specifically, there are absolutely no traces of excessive degraining and sharpening corrections. Compression is excellent. When projected, the film also conveys outstanding depth. There are no stability issues. The high-definition transfer is also free of damage marks, stains, and scratches. To sum it all up, The Forgiveness of Blood looks excellent on Blu-ray. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
The Forgiveness of Blood Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one standard audio track on this Blu-ray disc: Albanian DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"The film features a fully digital 5.1 surround soundtrack. The audio for this release was mastered at 24-bit from the original digital audio master files using Pro Tools HD."
The lossless audio track is outstanding. Dynamic movement is rather limited, but depth and especially fluidity are excellent. There are random nature sounds, for example, that very effectively add to the film's tense atmosphere. At times, it almost feels like one is watching a documentary feature; the sense of authenticity that permeates the entire film is indeed one of its strongest assets. The dialog is crisp, very clean, and stable. The English translation is very good.
The Forgiveness of Blood Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Forgiveness of Blood Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Joshua Marston's The Forgiveness of Blood is a fascinating film about a country in transition where right and wrong are constantly redefined. It is incredibly well researched and impeccably acted. Frankly, I don't think that I have seen a similar contemporary film by an American director offering such a carefully observed portrait of a foreign culture. Indeed, this is yet another wonderful addition to Criterion's impressive catalog. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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