Emir Kusturica’s second feature is set in Sarajevo during the troubled years following Tito’s break with Stalin and the Soviet Cominform, from 1948 to 1952. Former partisans and wishful believers in the Communist future could be arbitrarily accused of Stalinism and (whether guilty or innocent) chucked into work-correction camps for the duration.
Pic is seen through the eyes of six-year-old Malik (Moreno De Bartolli), and it’s his rather witty commentary on the events about him that sets the tone of this finely etched tragicomedy. Malik sees his father Mesa (Miki Manojlovic) always away on business trips, but what he doesn’t know (until the final scenes) is that he’s a brusque and lusty Lothario with a yen for the girls.
The twist of fate comes when a girlfriend of the father turns her erstwhile lover over to the local police inspector during a fit of jealousy. Mesa is picked up at night and packed off to the salt-mines, so to speak. As a result, his wife Sena (Mirjana Karanovic) has to suffer through three miserable years as a seamstress at home to make ends meet.
Pic scores as a film of irony and sarcasm, imbued with ‘human comedy’ tenderness – rendered much in the style of Czech comedies during the mid-1960s.