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Joshua Guy (Dennis Quaid) in a dual type of hell in Savior.

You don't need to go back to medieval times to find the roots of the
civil war that plagued the Balkans in the 1990s. You don't even need to
go back to World War One. The beginnings of the conflict started in the
early 80s when Tito, near death, decided to change the Yugoslavian
constitution to allow various areas of the country the right to succeed
and form their own autonomous regions. It isn't clear whether this
change was a vision of the future for Yugoslavia or whether it was
Tito's last act of perversion. It may have been both. In any case, after
Tito's death, slowly, the various regions of Yugoslavia began to break
away.

The various ethnicities in Yugoslavia were (and are) a rather
homogeneous mix. Think of a large jar of marbles of different colors,
all mixed up with each other. The government under Tito had primarily
been controlled, or at least administered, by Serbs. This was due to the
primacy of the capitol in Belgrade, primarily a Serbian area. When the
various regions started breaking away, the power tended to go to the
group most predominant in the area. And as it has been so often in
history, people in power don't like giving that power up. Milosevic came
up with the idea of "Serbia for the Serbs" and threw the Yugoslav Army in
support of so-called victimized Serbians in the former regions. To this
was added various whacko para-military units of the type that tend to
spring up during periods of anarchy.

Eventually, as the saying goes, all hell broke loose. And hell is a
very good description of what occurred over the next half-dozen years
or so. The three different ethnic groups started going at each other
across the region. This war, called the "Homeland War" in Croatia, was
not a war of army against army. This was a war in which armies and the
various para-military groups waged war against civilians. Fighting
another army you have the problem of attrition to worry about.
Slaughtering the fathers and daughters and grandmothers of the enemy is
much easier, as it turned out. If it is all about controlling an area,
well just go in and kick the opposition out of their towns and villages
and cities. If you do that, you can gain control.

That's a nutshell view, but it's a fairly accurate one. It was all about
power, and escalated into insanity. The United Nations sent
"peacekeepers" or "observers" in, but the peacekeepers didn't keep the
peace and the observers sat around in their armoured vehicles and sipped
coffee while horrendous massacres took place.

This is the world that Savior (1998) inhabits. The story centers
around Joshua Rose (Dennis Quaid). After his wife is killed in Europe in
a terrorist bombing Joshua changes his name to Joshua Guy and joins the
Foreign Legion. But he quickly tires of that, and along with a fellow
legionnaire ends up in Bosnia as a mercenary for the Serbian forces. At
this point Joshua is a man in search of a soul. After his friend is
killed, he serves as a sniper outside a city under seige (in the same
way as Sarajevo was under seige). He shoots anyone trying to escape the
city, and eventually shoots a teenage boy. Following this act Joshua is
haunted by the memory of the boy and the guilt that he feels for shooting
him.

Joshua eventually is given the job of taking a pregnant young Bosnian
woman to an exchange point in a brokered prisoner exchange. The soldier
he is travelling with is a sadist. He stops the jeep and beats the young
woman. Joshua sits by as this happens. When the young woman (Natasa Ninkovic)
begins to go into labor, the soldier decides to kill her and the child. Joshua
finds he can no longer sit by, and ends up killing the soldier. After that, he
becomes a fugitive from the Serbs.

Joshua and Vera and the newborn take off across the nightmarish Bosnian
landscape. When Vera is rejected by her father for being raped in the
camp (a classic "blame the victim" attitude), both find they are without
a home. They decide to head for Split, a city on the Croatian coast that
is neutral in the conflict and which just might offer some hope of
getting away from the war and starting a new life.

Savior is very sad, and at times mind-numbingly brutal. But the ending
is not typical Hollywood fare, and after the horror that has gone before
achieves something close to transcendence.

The movie was produced by Oliver Stone and directed by Predrag Antonijevic.
The soundtrack by David Robbins, unavailable for many years, has finally
been released and is hauntingly beautiful, containing a good bit of a cappella
vocal music from the Balkans. I would like to thank Eckzel, a reader who stopped
by, with help locating the soundtrack.

Nastassja Kinski gets the big print on the cover on this movie, but she
is in the movie about five minutes. Maybe even four minutes. It is
Natasa Ninkovic that is the lead female role here, and she is superb.
And if you never thought Dennis Quaid could act, you will be surprised.
He gives an incredible performance in this movie.

Recently, Hotel Rwanda has dealt with similar issues of ethnic
cleansing. I suppose that by the time that one came out people were a
little more willing to pay attention to such issues. Between Savior
and Hotel Rwanda, Savior is the better movie.

After World War II there arose a phrase — "Never again." Never
again, we said, would we let that kind of genocide happen. But
is has happened. And it's happening now. And it will no doubt
happen again. There really doesn't need to be a god to destroy
humans for their evil deeds in a flood. We seem to be all too
competent at brutalizing ourselves. In Savior there is a tiny
light at the end, one that can remind us that in spite of all
there is still the possibility for humanity and mercy in the world.
In fact, the darker the world, the more the need for those things.

For a cultural look at the problem, go here.


The Goddess Ma'at.