Growing up in a Bosnian household in Montreal, Stefan Pavlovic had a strong desire to reconnect with his family’s roots, which was intensified by political turmoil and displacement. When he travels to Orah, a small village in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the filmmaker forms a bond with Zdravko, a lonely fisherman who also feels disconnected from his past. In the form of a visual journey, Pavlovic’s poetic documentary alternates between the serene beauty of the village and harsh personal stories, exposing the lingering scars of history.
The words and images in this film hold equal importance. In Bosnian, the subtitles of Pavlovic’s conversations with Zdravko represent the filmmaker’s inner thoughts. When Zdravko uses unfamiliar phrases, the captions no longer translate and instead convey Pavlovic’s confusion. Along with expressionistic shots of the landscape, Pavlovic’s internal monologues and memories are presented subjectively; when he struggles with certain words, the onscreen text and images also glitch and flicker. These metatextual errors reflect Pavlovic’s fractured connection to his family’s native language. The divide between him and his heritage is not just physical and historical, but also linguistic.
Similar ruptures are to be found in the fisherman’s life as well. Having lost his eye and some of his hearing as a soldier during the Bosnian war, he remains traumatised and unable to adjust to civilian life. Zdravko’s self-imposed exile in an abandoned church reflects the incommunicable and alienating nature of PTSD. But even when language fails in the face of psychological turmoil and disconnect, moments of intimacy and care between the two men beautifully convey an understanding that is beyond words.