New-Release Tuesday: Sabina K.

Past the Popcorn provides South King Media with exclusive reviews of Theatrical and Home Video entertainment. We aim to dig just a little deeper than the surface of what we watch.

Just to be clear, this is the week that I recommend a subtitled foreign-language art film. Are you ready to hear more?

In the interests of full disclosure, I am somewhat biased when it comes to this tale of a Bosnian War vet’s life gone haywire. I’ve known the director, Cristóbal Krusen, for fifteen years now, and have consulted on several of his scripts–including the one for Sabina K.

To date, I have hesitated to write about the film precisely because of my bias. But it is now included with Amazon Prime, so it’s a legitimate home video release which has won directing, screenwriting, and acting awards at a number of film festivals around the world. Sure, I’m biased–but the general consensus is that this is a very fine film. It rates 7.7 out of 10 at IMDb and a solid 4.5 out of 5 at Amazon Prime. While I don’t generally refer to film ratings, I feel compelled to in this case just to gut-check my opinion. Plus, the film was a finalist for Bosnia’s official entry at the Oscars.

As you’d figure out from the trailer, Sabina is on the threshold of a new life. Bosnia has come out the other side of a horrific civil war and is trying to find a way of moving forward. In this context, widowed Muslim Sabina and Catholic Sasa plan to marry… but as you might imagine, their families are none too pleased with the plan. When Sasa goes missing while on a trip to visit relatives, the plan not only goes haywire but terribly tragic.

Sabina, as it turns out, is not only having problems with child support payments from her ex, she is also pregnant. When her employer turns on her, things only go from bad to worse. What’s a well-meaning woman to do? It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this story ain’t headed toward a Hollywood resolution. The ride to the story’s conclusion is both dark and harrowing.

Bosnian actress Alena Džebo is heartbreaking as Sabina. This is the kind of role that actors look for their entire careers, and Džebo completely inhabits the opportunity.

Not only is Sabina K. an excellent portrayal of a slice of very difficult life, it is extraordinarily beautifully filmed. Krusen is both a fine and patient crafter of stories and a true visual artist. With Sabina K., he has accomplished the finest work of his career.

Filmmakers frequently acknowledge that they don’t usually make the films they want to make; they make the films that they can make, since film is a very expensive collaborative artform.

Viewing Krusen‘s body of work will tell you that he is both more patient than most filmmakers, and perhaps more gifted, as his films have the flavor of stories that he really wants to tell, and instinctively knows how to tell well and artfully. His sensitivities appear akin to those of directors like Charles Martin Smith, who has said, “It’s too hard to make a movie to just have it be an empty film that you forget about five minutes after you leave the theater.” Krusen‘s films not just memorable, they are also truly global and spiritual in perspective, aim, and flavor.

And that is what is really at the heart of Krusen‘s work: the truth of human experience in connection to the eternal, and a profound affection for the purest ways in which cinema helps us approach and apprehend truth.

If you have the patience for finding slow beauty and hope in the midst of the most dire circumstances, and are willing to give English subtitles a shot, I think you will find Sabina K. both surprising and highly satisfying.

Sabina K. is now included with Amazon Prime.