I spent part of this past Sunday afternoon, watching Storm, an English-language film, by German director and writer, Hans-Christian Schmid.
Storm, a political thriller with emotional depth, is influenced by former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic. Karadzic is currently on trial for war crimes committed against Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats, during the Siege of Sarajevo, which took place from 1992-1995.
Karadzic is accused of being involved in horrific acts of ethnic cleansing, rape, executions, and starvation. The siege has been known as “the worst in Europe since the end of World War II”. Karadzic is fictionally represented by Goran Duric, who is played by Drazen Kuhn.
The movie opens briefly, with Goran spending time with his wife and two daughters, and then we don’t really see much of him, except for his silent presence in the back of the courtroom.
Storm is intelligently written and directed, and extremely well acted, with a dramatic plot, but not overly dramatically done. If you’re expecting to see horrific images and action packed excitement, interchanged with intense courtroom drama, then you will be disappointed.
Instead, the film’s main focus is on justice, particularly one prosecutor’s fight for it, and the victims she represents. Storm exposes the potential ugliness and cruelty of individual people, and how political and legal systems as a whole, can be just as guilty.
The pain and conflict inherent in the film, is subtly delivered, and it is such simple authenticity that I could connect with. The movie’s apprehensive tone, found within all aspects of the film, particularly the use of sound, makes you think that something explosive is about to happen, literally speaking. The absence of shootings and chases, and any other such productional flare, is what makes it remarkably bare and honest.
The tension lies mainly within the characters and the relationships between them, and not always knowing who is on whose side. The story adheres to the ethical ranges of the human spirit, encompassing all that is good and evil, without being too sappy.
I really admired all the actors in this film, particularly Kerry Fox, a New Zealand actress who I’ve never seen before, but most definitely want to see more of her after watching this. Fox portrayed a seasoned prosecutor Hannah Maynard, and the film introduces her character as she is being passed up for a promotion, which her colleague, Keith Haywood (Stephen Dillane), gets instead.
Hannah embodies passion and justice, but ironically enough, within a system that does not place fulfilling such values, as its top priority. Her plight is in contrast with the legal system that she works for, at the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague,which seems to overlook the victims she represents.
While Hannah’s emotions are seemingly cohesive, housed within a professional exterior, we see her vulnerability become more apparent, as the case intensifies. She has come to the realization that she must choose between doing the right thing, humanistically speaking, as opposed to just playing the political game, in order to avoid jeopardizing her professional standing.
This particular case grabs a greater hold of her as compared to the others, while reinvigorating her altruistic ideals. This is assumed after a key witness who, with great conviction, pleads with her to seek retribution, and then commits suicide, shortly after his testimony has been disproved in court. From then on, she is relentless in her pursuit for the truth, and won’t be dissuaded, even after threats are placed against her.
Romanian actress, Anamaria Marinca, from Romanian film, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, plays Mira Arendt, who is the deceased witness’ sister. Mira initially does not admit to any involvement in the war crimes, after being interrogated, but Hannah accidentally finds out that she may know more than she leads on to, and the case takes a pivotal turn.
Marinca effectively plays a tortured soul, who hides within her demons, because she lives in fear of the past and the future. She resists testifying in court, for fear of her family’s safety, due to threats from Serbian nationalists.
Marinca exudes herself as a dispassionate character, while simultaneously seeming to be hiding turbulent waves of emotions, beneath the surface. Her silence and resistance compels the viewer to discover the past from which she hides, and once it is revealed, one can’t help but sympathize with her dilemma.
Storm not only informs the viewer of the political impetus behind the movie, but it incites the philosophical question, of what is the “right” or ethical thing to do in such a situation?
As she argues for her witness’ right to be heard, her cynical boss says to her, “it’s not meant to be fuckin therapy” in reference to the court system. The statement is poignant and serves as a wake up call for Hannah, which forces her to see the clear difference between her and them.
Storm is a great movie that propels viewers to think about the significant questions it raises, inspiring one to contemplate the injustices that do exist within past and present societies. It is about truth, justice, and the passion and strength found within the human spirit. The ending is bittersweet, leaving us with the reality of the victim’s situation, but simultaneously giving hope that one person’s rebellious act for the sake of justice, may possibly change something after all.
Trailer for Storm: