July 09, 2011

Alive! (Albania 2009)

"Alive!" is the first film I have ever seen from Albania and while it is not an especially remarkable one, it does not have to hide from its Eastern European counterparts.

The film tells the story of a young student who returns to his rural village after the death of his father. Compared to the carefree modern life in the capital Tirana, the village seems to be not years but centuries behind. There are still old traditions such as Kanun, an Albanian vendetta ritual, that he involuntarily gets involved with. His peaceful life is soon disrupted and when he finally returns to Tirana, nothing will be as it was before.

This probably sound more exciting than it actually is because even if the story feels authentic, the film doesn't quite live up to the energy of its title. In spite of the well-meant ambition of first-time director Artan Minarolli to show an honest portrait of contemporary Albania, his direction lacks any creativity. The film is told and filmed too conventionally to create any tension. Especially towards the ending when one dramatic scene follows another, the director pushes too many buttons instead of just relying on his characters. The best thing about the film is the very good performance of handsome leading man Nix Xhelilay who displays both juvenile nonchalance and a certain maturity that his much older director appartently still lacks.


A moment of peace: Nik Xhelilaj

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