The Crisis of Prejudice: Our Review of ‘Fields of War’

Posted in Movies, VOD/iTunes/DigitalDownload, What's Streaming? by - September 08, 2020
The Crisis of Prejudice: Our Review of ‘Fields of War’

Kesulat (Fields of War), for its setting, uses a small village in Kosovo during the height of the war with Serbian in the late-90s. But it mostly tells the story of Alban Bregu. He’s a village doctor who finds himself in trouble due to his willingness to care for those despised by others. Their village awaits the oncoming invasion of the Serbian militia. But Bregu continues to care for the only Serbian family that lives amongst them. Branded a traitor by his own people, Bregu comes under attack for his commitment to the family. Tensions continue to mount and the invasion draws nearer. Bregu, then, must choose whether he will continue to support his friends or flee with his fellow countrymen into the woods.

Directed by Alan M. Trow, Fields of War is an astounding piece of cinema that is both powerful and humbling. The film uses documentary footage interspersed with the scripted narrative. It thus always feels honest in the midst of the dramatic tension. Though the feature tackles the pain of a country, Trow shoots much of the film in middle close-ups. This doesn’t sound particularly abnormal for dramas. But this aesthetic choice keeps the focus intently between the people involved, building intimacy within the story. Although Trow is from the UK, the film feels like an incredibly personal project for the director. Trow filmed Fields of War entirely in Kosovo. And it is both a cry for peace in a torn nation and a cry for new perspectives that transcends culture.

Sure, the Serbs remain the primary antagonists within War. But the film also reveals the pain that can be caused when prejudice rules our hearts. They remember their suffering at the hands of their Serbian oppressors. The people of Kosovo are thus understandably apprehensive about those Serbs who live amongst them. However, these clearly drawn lines are threatened by the actions of Dr. Bregu. Operating as a modern day ‘good Samaritan’, Bregu continues to care for his elderly Serbian neighbor, Milan. And he remains under intense scrutiny for his willingness to care for one of ‘them’. Nevertheless, Bregu sees a trusted friend in Milan and his son, Dragan. Bregu recognizes that what makes a good person stems from their heart and not their nationality.

This may seem like an overly simplistic lesson. But War proves that our past pain can leave an indelible mark upon our souls and mar our perceptions of others. As one watches the Serbian army hunt them, the hearts of the Albanian become (rightfully) hardened against their oppressors. Though the people in the village know Dragan and his family, they see him with suspicion because of his nationality. However, both subtly (and explicitly, at times), the relational complexities of War genuinely ask the question of ‘who is my neighbor?’.

Due to the pain of the past (and threat of the present), Dragan continues to be perceived as a threat by those around him. That’s even despite of his honorable character. (What’s more, it’s also worth noting that the film also portrays some of the Albanians as less than righteous themselves.) In doing so, Fields of War presents the complicated nature of trust and relationships in a modern context. It challenges the viewer’s understanding of their own presuppositions of others.

Violent and visceral, Fields of War manages to broaden its focus from the specificity of the struggles of Albanians in the late-90s. It takes time to reflect on conversations that prove relevant in North American at this time as well. The film is located within a specific context. But the power of the story lies in the universal truth that villains are defined by the actions they take today. The pain of our history does not define us.

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Born at a very early age, Steve is a Toronto-based writer and podcaster who loves to listen to what matters to our culture on screen. When he first saw Indiana Jones steal the cross of Coronado, he knew his world would never be the same and, since then, he’s found more and more excuses to digest what’s in front of him onscreen. Also, having worked as a youth and community minister for almost 20 years, he learned that stories help everyone engage the world around them. He’s a proud hubby, father (x2) and believes that Citizen Kane, Batman Forever (yes, the Kilmer one), and The Social Network belong in the same conversation. You can hear his ramblings on ScreenFish Radio wherever podcasts are gettable or at his website, ScreenFish.net.
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