Given that black comedy is nothing new from the region of the former Yugoslavia, dark social spoof “Fuse,” about an opportunistic town preparing for a visit from a VIP, could sound to some ears like late fruit from tired stock. But while not as accessible as Danis Tanovic’s “No Man’s Land” as ambitious as Emir Kusturica’s “Underground” or as bitter as Dragan Bjelogric’s “Pretty Village, Pretty Flame,” pic has enough emotional wallop and effective humor to merit serious attention from the fest circuit and adventurous arthouse distribs.
Set in the Bosnian town of Tesanj near the border with Serbia, story takes place two years or so after peace has broken out in the region — roughly 1997 or 1998. The sleazy head of police, Mugdim (Izudin Bajrovic), has a nice racket going with local crime kingpin Velija (Senad Basic, “Welcome to Sarajevo”), who runs prostitution and smuggling ops with sidekick Pic (Aleksandar Seksan).
When U.N. authorities arrive, promising to put Tesanj on the map with a visit from President Clinton, everyone hustles to clean up the town. Mostly this means hanging flags everywhere, teaching schoolkids to sing “House of the Rising Sun” in English (the mayor has to be assured it’s not an “anti-capitalist” song first), and transforming the local bar/brothel into a “cultural center on the inter-entity border.”
The loosest cannon in town is Zaim (seasoned character actor Bogdan Diklic, “No Man’s Land”), the former chief of police now befuddled by grief since the disappearance and probable death of his son, Adnan (Feda Stukan). Latter crops up for chats with his dad, either as a ghost or just as a figment of Zaim’s imagination. Digging up an old gun, Zaim eventually decides to turn himself into a human bomb and take Clinton hostage in order to retrieve his son.
Meanwhile, Zaim has another living son, Faruk (Enis Beslagic), a fireman whose sweetheart gets her legs blown off by a mine in pic’s opening scene. He and his partner, Hamdo (Admir Glamocak), are learning to work with a pair of Serbian counterparts for the greater good of “inter-entity” co-operation. The plotline following the four men — who after initial recriminations, compare tragedies and finally become friends — is at the heart of pic’s slightly heavy-handed but earnest plea for forgiveness.
Helmer-screenwriter Zalica, making his feature debut here, shows a particular knack for comedy, keeping the banter (funny even in subtitles) and sight gags bubbling away throughout. The tragic elements are less confidently handled in places, although pic’s final tearjerking scene is handled with light assurance. Fine perfs from the ensemble pull off the few clunky passages in the script, with Diklic, trembling and menacing at the same time, deserving particular praise.
Technically, picture is unremarkable but OK: Lensing is clean, editing fluid, and music usefully deployed.