At the very least Joshua Marston’s “The Forgiveness of Blood” gives us an interesting set up. The central story takes place in the midst of a family blood feud in the mountains of Albania. The whole idea of a blood feud sounds silly, doesn’t it? Sort of like gang violence. The idea that a small quarrel between two families can lead to murder and retaliation. Not to mention the family who’s being targeted having to stay confined in their house until the feud is resolved. According to the press notes I was given along with the film, since 1992 more than 9,500 males have been killed in blood feuds, with more than 2,800 families locked in these deadly disputes.
One of the underlining themes in the movie is loyalty to one’s family. That no matter the circumstances, no matter who’s to blame you stick with your family. Say, my family was locked in a blood feud and it was my family who ignited it. Even though they are at fault, I would still feel an obligation to stick with them and support them, even if it means living in isolation.
Instead of trying to tackle the issue as a whole, Marston isolates it to one particular family. It revolves around Nik (Tristan Hallia), an ambitious carefree teenager. One day his father and uncle become involved in a land dispute that eventually leads to the death of a villager. This in turn leads to a feud between Nik’s family and the family of the dead person. According to a centuries-old code, they have a right to kill one male in Nik’s family. With the uncle in prison and the father on the lam Nik and other members of his family have to stay at their house (because according to the code, the family seeking vengeance can’t go on their property) and wait until the dispute is settled.
Overall “The Forgiveness of Blood” is competently made. The script by Marston and Andamion Murataj is intelligent. The actors--while most of them are newcomers--bring a certain level of believability. It is slow moving but that’s mainly because most of the movie is about Nik and his family having to live in seclusion. Long hours of sitting around, TV watching and no school. At one point Nik makes a barbell to work out with and carves up a wall with a knife out of boredom. While his sister Rudina (Sindi Lacej) has to keep working to support the family. It doesn’t look fun, that’s for sure.
And yet, I couldn’t help but be underwhelmed by the movie in the long run because not a lot really happens. I would think something that would involve family-to-family murder would be very tense, but the movie’s too trivial. There’s far too much sitting around, which wouldn’t necessarily be bad but Marston sets up so many potentially suspenseful moments in the picture.
We see Rudina active in the town, all by herself. At one point she even gets threatened by the other family, and Nik sneaks out few times, once he even goes right up to the house of the other family, but they build up to nothing. There needed to be more at stake. Another family member killed or kidnapped, something to get the circulation going, to get us on edge. To make the isolation scenes more dreadful and uneasy. We don’t even get to see the event that sparks the conflict. As a result the climax is not very exciting and the ending feels incomplete.
Frankly the movie left me wanting to learn more about blood feuds. Apparently they were banished when communism came to Albania in 1944. But then came back in 1992 as an “unsanctioned alternative to the convoluted and overstretched government legal system,” along with bribery, overloaded courts and a nation wide ban of the death penalty.
Funny, there was no mention of corruption or a convoluted government in the movie. The few times the police did show up they didn’t seem dishonest. Perhaps Marston shouldn’t have kept the story so isolated.