Updated: Jul 28, 2020
Directed by: #Ardit Sadiku
Written by: #Ardit Sadiku
For the duration of any film there is only so near the viewer can approach the characters. When a director tests this proximity, the result is always unsettling. The people on screen come close to being alive. This is what Ardit Sadiku verges on in Mali i Harrum, translated from the Albanian as The Forgotten Mountain. To bring actual existence to the lives it shows. This is the style of the left-unsaid.
The film is steeped in silences, in minimal interiors that are lit with near-natural light. Many of the scenes indoors seem to take place in a time that is always dim twilight or glaring morning, the walls sparse, the furniture simple and rustic.
And the performances too, are tightly restrained. Even though on paper the narrative is something of a melodrama, the execution is measured, contemplative, and holds back from any kind of dramatic flourish. The result is faintly disturbing, while highly watchable. Sadiku achieves this through keeping a pace that is better suited to the histrionics of the plot, punctuating it with continual silence.
Rikard, played by Qorraj, has lost his house in a sideswipe from his own son. Rescuing him from homelessness, his daughter Ema (Bunjaku) and her husband Lorenci (Shala) take him to stay with them in Theth National Park, in their picturesque cottage surrounded by the Prokletije, the Accursed Mountains. But the marriage is far from ideal. Lorenci, as revealed in a solitary shot of his spermatology results, is infertile. In desperation, Ema has been sleeping with the neighbour.
All of this is offset by the elderly Rikard’s existential dread as he reflects on a life that has come to nil, voicing his thoughts to his son-in-law, his daughter, and a neighbourly woman of similar age. The vast scenery looms in shots that near as close as possible to the sublime through the cinematic lens. In all its crags, firs and peaks, the ceaseless futility of life is framed against the mountainous backdrop. Even with the naturalistic performances, an air of faint romanticism pervades.
There are some shots that seem contrived, stiff, the characters slightly too posed. But this is balanced with delicate camerawork from edit to edit. Last year, the film was screened at Palić European Film Festival, and it is still fresh. With the narrative pacing moving with the pressure that it does, the film never lapses, even in the longer takes. To witness the old man bathed by his daughter is one of the most eerie, most humanising, most touching scenes. One of those elusive points in cinema in which the boundary of the living image is crossed. For the most part, The Forgotten Mountain is mapped in precisely this rare beyond.
The Forgotten Mountain is currently available to rent on the UK Film Channel.