You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘On the Milky Road’

Emir Kusturica’s die-hard fans know exactly what to expect, but the rest won’t be converted to the directors’ profligate imaginings.

Monica Bellucci, Emir Kusturica, Predrag Manojlović, Sloboda Mićalović.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2800340/reference

What would it be like to watch an Emir Kusturica film with the sound off? It would certainly allow for greater appreciation of the visuals, which in “On the Milky Road” are often rather beautiful. The problem – well, one of the problems – is that just when you want to admire the mountain terrain, or ruminate on the snowy whiteness of a flock of geese, you’re assaulted by crushingly loud pig screams, gun fire, helicopter whirrs, mine explosions, and, of course orchestrations at full blast. It’s what his die-hard fans expect, though everyone else might be running for the hills. Set during the Bosnian War and telling the fairy-tale-ish love story between a Serbian milkman (played by the director) and his Italian-Serbian object of desire (Monica Bellucci), “Milky” reinforces Kusturica’s leap from magical realism into the territory of exaggerated phoniness.

Introductory text announces that the film is “based on three true stories and many fantasies,” while the inspiration, per the director, comes from his short “Our Life” in the omnibus film “Words With God.” In truth the only noticeable connection to that earlier work comes in the last five minutes of “Milky Road,” though it would be a stretch to say that the previous two hours make greater sense of the short. What most distinguishes Kusturica’s latest (apart from the decibel level) is the disconnectedness of it all. Perhaps it’s meant to be metaphor, or poetic flights of fancy. Yet when such profligate imaginings make sense only in the director’s head, what’s left is a clock that attacks, a milk-drinking snake, a gymnast of exaggerated skill, and a lot of exploding sheep.

Animals figure heavily here, reinforcing the animalistic nature of humans – especially in a Kusturica film. So when pig slaughterers dump buckets of blood into a bathtub, no one should be surprised that a flock of geese take a literal blood bath. Like many images here, it’s startling, though it’s hard to tell if it’s really meant as a commentary on the bloodbath that was the Bosnian War, since all the shooting back and forth on screen is far less visceral than what goes on in that tub.

Kosta (Kusturica) delivers milk in the war zone, somehow managing to avoid frequent hails of bullets; perhaps his peregrine falcon protects him, though not from the amorous attentions of former Yugoslav champion gymnast and “Flashdance” devotee Milena (Sloboda Mićalović). When a marriage broker picks out the Bride (Bellucci) for Milena’s brother, returning war bigwig Žaga Bojović (Predrag Manojlović), it looks like a double wedding is in the cards, but then Kosta sees her, and is smitten.

The Bride is never accorded a name, or a convincing backstory: She’s half Italian, half Serbian, and has come from Krajina, the self-proclaimed Serbian republic along the Croatian border (many from the region will want to read a political, anti-Croatian message in this plot detail). She’s also the ex-girlfriend of an English general who killed his wife on her account; he’s been in prison, but unknown to the Bride, is about to come out. Meanwhile, she milks the cows, makes dinner, fetches water from the well – in other words, she’s the perfect woman, plus she’s Monica Bellucci. Ceasefires come and go, the joint wedding is about to take place, and then the general’s commandos come and ruin everything.

The remainder of the film – another 45 minutes – sees Kosta and the Bride flee into the wilds of nature, trying to stay one step ahead of the commandos. They have a brief idyllic spell in a “Gilligan’s Island” style hut, but must again escape in a manner increasingly outside reality. One of the ways you know this is a Kusturica film is because whenever he puts his characters into impossible situations, he invents an even more impossible escape, like a 6-year-old devising the story. Other signature moments are the blaring musical interludes that quickly end any serious lull, as well as the repetitive nature of the most annoying devices, such as a hopping, squawking hen, and the director’s long-established fondness for characters that defy gravity.

Location work is the main payoff here, with genuinely arresting landscape shots, especially at the start, when editing weaves in literal bird’s-eye views that soar above the gunfire and mountains. Also notable is the final sequence, harking back to “Our Life.” Such images impart far more pleasure than the overused CGI snub-nosed adder.

Film Review: 'On the Milky Road'

Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (competing), Sept. 9, 2016. Running time: 125 MIN. (Original title: “Na mliječnom putu”) (Serbian dialogue)

Production: (Serbia-U.K.-U.S.) A Pinball London, BN Films, Rasta Intl. production, in association with AG Capital, Wild Bunch. (International sales: Wild Bunch, Paris.) Producers: Paula Vaccaro, Emir Kusturica, Lucas Akoskin, Alex Garcia. Executive producers: Alex Garcia, Pilina Gonzalez and Guillermo Arriaga.

Crew: Director, writer: Emir Kusturica. Camera (color, widescreen): Goran Volarević, Martin Šec. Editor: Svetolik Mića Zajc.

With: Monica Bellucci, Emir Kusturica, Predrag Manojlović, Sloboda Mićalović.

More Film

  • Aisling Franciosi

    European Film Promotion Unveils 2019 Shooting Stars

    Aisling Franciosi (“The Nightingale”), Ardalan Esmaili (“The Charmer”) and Elliott Crosset Hove (“Winter Brothers”) are among the 10 actors and actresses who have been named as the European Film Promotion’s Shooting Stars. Previous Shooting Stars include Alicia Vikander, Matthias Schoenaerts, Pilou Asbæk and Baltasar Kormákur. The new crop of up-and-coming talent for the 22nd edition of [...]

  • Jodie Foster'Money Monster' photocall, Palais, 69th

    Film News Roundup: Jodie Foster to Direct, Star in Remake of Icelandic Thriller

    In today’s film news roundup, Jodie Foster is remaking Iceland’s “Woman at War,” the Art Directors Guild honors production designers Anthony Masters and Ben Carre, “47 Meters Down: Uncaged” gets cast and Melissa Takal directs “New Year New You” for Hulu. PROJECT ANNOUNCEMENT More Reviews Concert Review: Maxwell Brings Down the House at Rapturous Hometown [...]

  • Jake Gyllenhaal

    Jake Gyllenhaal to Star in Remake of Denmark's Oscar Entry 'The Guilty' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Bold Films, and Jake Gyllenhaal and Riva Marker’s Nine Stories banner have acquired the rights to remake the Danish thriller “The Guilty,” with Gyllenhaal attached to star. The pic won the world cinema audience award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and was also named one of the top five foreign language films of 2018 by [...]

  • Toxic Avenger

    'Toxic Avenger' Movie in the Works at Legendary

    Legendary Entertainment is developing “The Toxic Avenger” as a movie after acquiring the feature film rights. Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz of Troma Entertainment will serve as producers. Alex Garcia and Jay Ashenfelter will oversee for Legendary. More Reviews Concert Review: Maxwell Brings Down the House at Rapturous Hometown Show Film Review: 'Jirga' Kaufman and [...]

  • Constance Wu

    'Crazy Rich Asians' Star Constance Wu in Negotiations for Romantic Comedy

    “Crazy Rich Asians” star Constance Wu is in talks to join Sony’s Screen Gems’ untitled romantic comedy, with Elizabeth Banks and Max Handelman producing. “GLOW” actress Kimmy Gatewood is making her feature directorial debut on the project. She will be directing from a Savion Einstein script about a woman who becomes pregnant with two babies [...]

  • Maggie Gyllenhaal AoA

    Maggie Gyllenhaal on Why a Woman Director Doesn't Automatically Make a Story More Feminine

    Having a female director doesn’t automatically make a story more feminine, says “The Kindergarten Teacher” star Maggie Gyllenhaal, but when it comes to her film with director Sara Colangelo, she says the female narrative is fully encapsulated. “Just because something is written or directed by a woman doesn’t necessarily make it a feminine articulation,” she says [...]

  • Kevin Hart Hurricane Harvey

    Academy Looks Warily at Oscar Host Options as Board Meeting Looms

    Kevin Hart’s abrupt departure as Oscars host has left the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences scrambling to find someone to take the gig. As of now, the situation remains fluid as the group’s leadership explores options, including going host-less, individuals familiar with the situation told Variety. The Academy was blindsided by Hart’s announced departure Thursday [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content