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This violent family drama from the director of Maria Full of Grace is a taut, brooding success on Criterion Blu-ray...
Criterion / 109 Minutes / 2011 / Unrated / Street Date: October 16, 2012
Director Joshua Marston's Maria Full of Grace was a tender yet jostling of a life and time gone mad - its intimacy in terms of dramatic scope and structure kept the humanism of its story front and center. It seems as though this is a major aesthetic concern for Marston, who revisits this territory on this high-def edition of his 2011 film The Forgiveness of Blood: there are concerns and themes of local and national import here, but Marston knows he get fuel this powderkeg of his by keeping the camera filled with close-ups of faces.
In the picture, our anchor is young Nik (Tristan Halilaj), a teenager in rural Albania who is your prototypical youngster - he has minimal interest in the processes and chores of his family's farm and is far more interested in surfing the web and staring at girls. But these aims are put on hold when a land feud between his family and a neighboring one flares, and Nik's father ends up killing the figurehead of the clan next door.
The film's title comes into play when it becomes clear that in the particular culture of the movie, it is considered legitimate that family members of a person who's been murdered can return the favor to a member of the offending family, but any retribution must be done in plain sight: if this neighboring family wants blood, they'll have to draw it in broad daylight. So Nik and his family retreat to the shadowed halls of their small home and try to wait out the impending doom that awaits them.
The Forgiveness of Blood is a striking Criterion release for many reasons. It flew under the critical radar - for the most part - upon its domestic theatrical release, and high-def editions like this one provide a wonderful platform from which to revisit a film that may not have deserved its awards-season-outcast status. As was the case with Maria Full of Grace, Marston's hushed underplaying of certain dramatic moments goes a bit overboard, but there's a fever to The Forgiveness of Blood that works like gangbusters. It's a dark and troubling picture, but its many ghosts are heartbreaking and fascinating, indeed.