DVD Review: The Forgiveness of Blood

STUDIO: Criterion | DIRECTOR: Joshua Marston | CAST: Tristan Halilaj, Sindi Lacej, Refet Abazi, Ilire Vinca Celaj
BLU-RAY & DVD RELEASE DATE: 10/16/2012 | PRICE: DVD $29.95, Blu-ray $39.95
BONUSES: commentary, featurettes, audition and rehearsal footage, more
SPECS: NR | 105 min. | Foreign language drama | 1.85:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1/DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 | Albanian with English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall


The Forgiveness of Blood, an engrossing coming of age revenge drama/tragedy from director Joshua Marston (Maria Full of Grace), is set in contemporary Albania, a country isolated for thousands of years by terrain and ideology.

The Forgiveness of Blood movie scene

Tristan Halilaj and Sindi Lacej are forced to grow up quickly in The Forgiveness of Blood.

Nik (Tristan Halilaj) and his sister Rudina (Sindi Lacej) are teenagers in a farming community in the North of the country, where they travel in a horse drawn cart while talking on cell phones and updating their Facebook pages. When their father (Refer Abazi) is involved in a murderous dispute over access to a back road, they are drawn into a blood feud, which in Albania is played out according to archaic rules known as “The Kanun.” Soon, Nik becomes a virtual prisoner in his own home while Rudina demonstrates entrepreneurial gutsiness.

Filmed on location, the camera captures the beautiful farmlands and distant mountains. Marston deftly counterpoints the modern with the primitive: a home has an antique stove in one room, TV and videogames in another. He also makes great use of shadows and darkness to underline the ever-lurking threats.

The acting is excellent. The two teenage leads, with no previous experience, come through superbly, especially Tristan Halilaj, who captures Nik’s humor and simmering resentment. They are balanced by prominent native pros, notably Refer Abazi, powerful as a father who is bewildered by the effect of ancient tradition on his young family.

The commentary and extras of audition and rehearsal footage add surprisingly little that wasn’t made clear (and very well) in the film itself. We expect directors to search exhaustively for their leads, don’t we? Perhaps the bonuses could have offered more history of this little-known, often forbidding country, the indigenous people of which were referred to by a contemporary of Alexander The Great as “an uncouth, mead-swilling tribe.” (Not my words! I don’t want to start a blood feud…!)


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About David

David Leopold is an actor, writer and videographer who would take a Sherpa ride up a Tibetan mountain to see an Edwige Feuillère movie.