‘Honeymoons’ shows us that the distance between Eastern and Western Europe is more than a question of kilometers. The films follows two couples, one is Albania, one in Serbia, who in the midst of wedding celebrations decide to leave their respective countries to realize their dreams in Western Europe. They soon find themselves trapped between their countries’ past and their future lives together.
A double header with similar themes, Honeymoons exposes the depth of dysfunction between traditional Balkan society and post Soviet global greed. In both, young love has no currency compared to dirty currency and freedom is a dream rather than a promise.
There are two weddings, one in Albania and the other in Serbia. Both are ostentatious affairs, given by men who have become rich on the back of the new order. It is not they, nor their arrogant acolytes, who matter so much as their underappreciated cousins and brothers, who remain true to their beliefs and, as a result, poor.
Rok and Vevo are Albanian peasants, living in a village that has no telephone. Three years ago their eldest son Ilir attempted to escape to Italy in a rubber boat, but was never heard of again. His fiancée Majilinda stays with them, as is the custom, but cannot entertain thoughts of another romance until Ilir’s fate has been confirmed. Nik, the younger son, loves her and plans to take her to Italy to start a new life. The family travel to Tirana by bus for the wedding of Rok’s brother’s daughter, where they are treated by the rowdier guests as a reminder of rural poverty’s deep rooted backwardness, while Nik uses family contacts to advance his plans for Majilinda.
In the second story, Marko is a budding cellist, living in Belgrade with Vera, to whom he is secretly married. He has been invited to an audition with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, but first they must go to her cousin’s wedding, where he meets her family, especially her father who remains embittered by his brother’s capitulation to the corrupt world of national politics. Again there is evidence of cultural snobbery against those who do not flaunt wealth as the 21st century beacon of Western-style success.
In the end, this is a film, not so much about the destruction of values in a materialistic world, but the meaning of freedom for the powerless. When the young couples reach Italian shores, they find themselves at the mercy of circumstance and border guards. Nothing, even that which appears greener on the other side, is what it seems. Disappointment may be the pale shadow of fulfilment when love fails, through no fault of its own, to conquer all. Angus Wolfe Murray
Honeymoons is a story of contrasts and parallels: Serbs versus Albanians, city dwellers versus peasants, Eastern versus Western Europe. The film delicately straddles romance and politics by skewering the ghosts of the Balkans through two young couples over the course of a few momentous days.
Though they never meet, the couples, one from a rural Albanian village, the other from Belgrade, become mired in similar circumstances on opposite sides of the tense Serbian-Albanian border. Maylinda (Mirela Naska) and Nik (Jozef Shiroka) make a rare trip into the capital city of Tirana for a family wedding, where Nik convinces her to shed their repressive village life and run away to the West. Maylinda, the somber and beautiful fiancé of his dead brother, accepts his plan and his affections, and the two sneak away for a boat to Italy—avoiding the wrath of Nik’s mother, who clings to the belief that her favorite son, who disappeared on his way to Italy years earlier, is still alive. Meanwhile, Vera (Jelena Trkulja) and Marko (Nebojsa Milovanovic) arrive at a wedding with slightly more settled plans—to leave for Vienna the next day, where Marko will audition for the Vienna Philharmonic and, with Vera, start a new life.
The wedding scenes are gaudy and boisterous, but unlike the joyful and slapstick spectacle in Emir Kusturica’s Black Cat, White Cat (centered on a Gypsy rural wedding), there is a discernible sense of discomfort in these celebrations. The nouveau riche Albanian wedding takes place in a nightclub where little expense has been spared, much to Nik’s family’s embarrassment, while at the Serbian festivities, guns are fired into their air in celebration, conjuring images of the recent war that ripped though the region.
While the couples are tenderly portrayed, neither country is painted very favorably. It’s no wonder the younger generation wants to flee. But their paths to a new life are blocked by the bitter and closed-minded—Nik’s fervently traditional mother and Vera’s grudge-obsessed, stridently nationalistic father, hardened by years of conflict. If not venal, at best, they are a stagnant lot. A bus driver’s memorable announcement, “We will arrive on schedule with a half-hour delay,” perfectly encapsulating the director Goran Paskaljevic’s wry take on the bureaucratically challenged nations. Yana Litovsky
1.40GB | 1h 31mn | 1024×576 | mkv