Exploring the tragic events in the former Yugoslavia, “Vukovar Poste Restante” sears the eye with images of mindless ethnic conflict, as it ranges from an idyllic rose garden to the concluding panoramas of a devastated land.
Just as the Berlin Wall falls and hopes for peace arise, a wedding takes place between a Croat woman and a Serbian man in Vukovar; once this would have been unexceptional. The marriage becomes a Capulet-Montague combat even before the wedding party reaches the reception, with marching columns of Croats and Serbs sending the celebrants running.
The neighbors write nasty graffiti on the walls of the bride’s family’s home, as Serbs and Croats reject those they had always lived with. The newlyweds are divided when the Serbian husband goes off to the army, and the conflict succeeds in destroying home, city and nation.
The subject of the film is “What’s true at one time is false at another,” and its depiction of a beautiful country’s loss of its moral compass is a terrifying , dazzling achievement. Director Boro Draskovic has an acute eye, open to sudden and stark imagery. There are unforgettable images of the once beautiful Vukovar area turned into a land of skeletons. Helmer manages to establish a sense of family among his well-to-do, sophisticated principals, and the ensuing barbarous events show the thin line between civilization and chaos.
Poignant and meaningful images stay with the viewer. A white pet bird symbolizes peace, and from its perch in the rose garden it flies with increasing desperation, ending up amidst the smoke and flame of a destroyed city. A tank crashes through the garden wall; three crones stir a hellish broth in a replay of the witches in “Macbeth.” Anna, whose husband is a Serb, is the victim of a savage rape by Serbians.
There is blame enough for all parties to the conflict in a final aerial sweep over a tortured landscape. Draskovic says to his people, look at what you have done.
A viewer can be excused for feeling futility.