The Waiting Room (2015)
Dir. Igor Drljača
Starring: Jasmin Geljo, Zeljko Kecojevic, Cynthia Ashperger
Review By Greg Klymkiw
Even when a war is 20-years-ago and thousands of miles away, it sears its ugly imprint upon your soul forever. It's even worse if you've been forced to abandon all you know and love for a new country with few prospects for immigrants and refugees.
Jasmin (Jasmin Geljo, a tough, pug-faced Buster Keaton) knows this all too well. The popular actor and playwright fled the violent dismantlement of the former Yugoslavia and settled in Toronto. Estranged from his first wife, he still finds time to visit her in the terminal cancer ward, alternating the death-watch with his youthful adult daughter. Married to a much younger woman, with whom he's sired two children, Jasmin grows increasingly distant from her.
Eking out a living as a construction labourer whilst endlessly auditioning for stereotypical television roles requiring Eastern European gangster "types", he dreams of recapturing former glories (of the thespian kind) by returning to Sarajevo to mount the hilariously bawdy theatrical comedy he's been performing for Toronto's Yugoslavian community.
War, however, forces dreams to either die hard or at best, reside in a kind of purgatory. His attempts to move forward seem to create an ever-increasing stasis. Taking part in the filmed portion of a political avant-garde art installation about the turbulent events two decades earlier is what finally ignites memories of the war he's tried so hard to closet. One repression usually leads to another and Jasmin's purgatory intensifies.
Writer-director Igor Drljača has taken several astonishing leaps forward from his dazzling 2012 debut feature Krivina.
This sophomore effort is even more richly layered, but on this occasion, he's splashed the movie with healthy sprinklings of (mostly sardonic) humour amidst the angst. What consumes us, though, is Drljača's rich mise-en-scène - gorgeously composed still-life shots, the drab, grey Toronto juxtaposed with a fake backdrop of the gorgeous Yugoslavian countryside. The pace is miraculously measured and calculated; so much so that the picture's guaranteed to mesmerize.
Like his first feature, Drljača has crafted a devastating film about war with nary a single shot fired from a gun, nor a single bomb exploded. The echoes, explosions and shots heard round the world are burrowed in the film's devastating silence and the pain etched into the faces of those suffering strangers in a strange land are like silent screams ever-reminding us of the true casualties of war - those who live a living death.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***** Five Stars
The Waiting Room opens June 3 in Canada via A-71 Entertainment with its inaugural theatrical play date at the TIFF Bell Lightbox and additional dates to follow.