The Mechanisms of Fear and Strength By Mahrez Karoui
Border Post (Karaula) is a fiction that redraws, two decades later, in an original way and on a halfway tone between the comedy and the tragedy, the last days of a country that was formerly called Yugoslavia. The Croatian director Rajko Grlic carries to the screen a best-seller of Yugoslavian literature while trying to wonder otherwise on the deep causes of the explosion in a multi-ethnic country that will afterwards be divided into several nations (Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia…).
The story that takes place around the spring of 1987 relates the daily routines of an army border post in the region that separates Albania and Yugoslavia with a little bit of nostalgia towards this forever past era where the Yugoslavs, from all the ethnic groups, were called to serve the nation under the same flag. But this is only a pretext to approach deeper and more universal subjects, hence the mechanisms of fear and strength. As in the film, like in history, the true enemy that awaited the country is not the Albanian army as was claimed by the military hierarchy but rather the exasperated ultra nationalism which will boost the Yugoslavs four years later to fight and kill each other during the so-called war.
Thus, in a demystifying and ironic style, the call for emergency in the border post under the pretext of an eminent attack of the Albanian army was nothing but a false alarm and its aim was to grant the Lieutenant Safet Pasic (Emir Hadzihafisbegovic) a reliable excuse in order to avoid being discovered by his wife as he had a sexually transmitted disease (syphilis). The sexual impotence is just a metaphor for the military officers’ impotence that looks desperately for a glory which is lost in the meanderings of the Communist dictatorship. The soldiers did not believe in an Albanian attack as there was no foreshadowing hint. Even they were unwillingly confined there and remained condemned to the isolated and monotonous life of the borders.
As time elapsed, tensions went higher. During this time, the lieutenant calls for the only doctor in the company. The young Sinisa (Toni Gojanovic) will have a double mission: to care for his boss and to visit the boss’s lovely wife. Sinisa cannot help falling in love with her. At the same time, his best friend Ljuba Pauvonic takes the unconditional decision to leave the army. The situation slowly runs out of control…
In fact, this story is not an extraordinary one. However, it allows us to have a deeper insight into the unjustified fear from the unknown other. Witnessing the last moments before the fall of communism, the army became paranoiac. Ethnic differences, which were ignored and repressed for ages by the dictatorship of the one party rule, led the country towards the chaos. The talented realizations of Rajko Grlic succeed tremendously in maintaining the tension until the end, without forgetting of course the brilliant performing of the actors who simply excelled on the screen. Thus, the Croatian director who studied at the FAMU, the cinema school of Prague , where he obtained his diploma at the same time as Markovic, Karanovic, and Paskaljevic (he belongs to this generation of directors that appeared at the beginning of 70s) confirms once again a well noticed talent. The ‘blood bath’ which comes as the final scene was, contrary to the humorous tone of the beginning, so tragic. This foreshadowed, somehow, the bloody civil war that will tear the country apart throughout the 90s.
Finally, the film is in itself significant since it combines the countries of the former Yugoslavia in one production. Thus cinema can unify the brother rivals.