TIRED COMPANIONS: FIVE STORIES FROM THE WAR (Zoran Solomun, 1996)

Episodic, correlative to the fragmented former Yugoslavia and fragmented Balkan lives, Croatian-born writer-director Zoran Solomun’s Müde Weggefährten: Fünf Geschichten Aus Dem Krieg shows disparate refugees heading to and trying to survive in Germany.
     A young Bosnian named Jimmy, who is always after a buck until at the last he feels compelled to recapture his soul, is a recurrent “through”-character. But each character is fresh and each segment, heartrending, brilliant.
     The film opens at the Serbian-Hungarian border in 1993, a year into the Bosnian War. Two women, along with Jimmy and others, are expelled from a crowded train of refugees for having either no passport or an “expired” one due to the war. Jimmy makes his way to Germany, illegally, on his own. There, Croats, Serbs and Bosnians of varying durations in Germany meet and clash, sometimes within the same ethnic group.
     In one segment hustler Jimmy and a refugee who spent time in a Serbian concentration camp try peddling the latter’s “story” to a Berlin newspaper. But the young former Yugoslavia-editor, having just published such a story only weeks ago, proves deaf to the two men’s entreaties. Jimmy will find another way to score a deutschmark, but the older man badly needed the money to help support his family. Besides, the editor makes plain that the man doesn’t really exist, that his story does not matter. He hangs himself. In the last segment, someone who earlier transported illegal refugees into Germany is transporting the coffin back to Bosnia, along with Jimmy and the suicide’s wife and daughter. (Caption: “We’ve got a corpse, but its papers are in order.”)
     The war, which is over, “destroyed everything.” In a bar, Simple Simon-instructions freeze patrons mid-dance: a metaphor for political pliability and acquiescence.

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