This is a tale of the struggles of an Albanian shepherd, Besnik, whose life seems to get knotted up at points where his heart beats hardest – for love, for family, for God. The scene opens up to an idyllic Albanian landscape where mountains, rolling hills and blue skies reign. And that is the picturesque set that follows the film, which gives an ironic juxtaposition against Besnik’s less-than blissful experiences throughout the film.
A devout Muslim, Besnik is the sole care-giver of his ailing Communist father. His uncanny discovery of an old Catholic mural in the walls of his village’s mosque opens an unsettling chapter in the community. Vilma enters the scene as an official from the Institute of Monuments, bringing news that this building was once shared by Catholics and Muslims as a place for worship. While the community weighs out the possibility of re-visiting a practice of old, testing the boundaries of modern day inter-religious tolerance lines, we are brought through scenes of tender moments between Besnik, the lonely village pumpkin who once failed in love, and the modern, city girl Vilma. Will love finally come around for Besnik ?
As these stories develop, the film gets busier with Besnik’s siblings return to the village to see their ailing father, with families in tow. Besnik’s family is almost a reflection of a difficult and complex Albanian history – Communist father, Catholic mother, Muslim sister and Eastern Orthodox Christian brother. More than the usual siblings dynamics, this family has to deal with differences in lifestyles and cultures. There are endearing moments, especially Besnik’s relationship with his niece, giving slivers of hope that there are bonds that may survive the tensions.
For suggesting that the Mullah allows the Priest to conduct mass once a week in the village mosque, for initiating a visit to the Priest to convey the idea – Besnik has demonstrated a progressive outlook that may not sit well with a rather conservative cohort of villages.
Besnik’s question to the Mullah probably sums up the key issue the film espouses : People can love God so much. Why can’t they love each other?
Chief Executive, Home Team NS