By José Sarmiento Hinojosa
Issues of repentance, forgiveness and revindication are carefully dissected in Lars Feldballe-Petersen new documentary The Unforgiven. The Finnish director sets its gaze in former war criminal Esad Lanzo, a man trying to rebuild his life after being sentenced for war crimes in the former Yugoslavia civil war. Lanzo, a man tormented by his demons, tries to appease his suffering in an exhausting search for the war prisoners he abused, in order to ask for forgiveness and some comprehension. It is difficult to side with the wrongdoer, specially in a war as brutal as the Yugoslavian civil war, but Feldballe-Petersen allows his camera not to make previous judgments, and to follow its lead character without over engaging in a sympathetic correspondence.
Lanzo is also trying to follow a normal life after a life of crimes. Without a job, and without a country that would allow him a visa, he’s a disenfranchised man, a man now devoid of his nationality, his identity, his previous life. In encounters with his family, he’s confronted with his father’s idea that “killing one man is as killing the entire mankind” , something that haunts him constantly, a notion he tries to dissipate when he finally meets with his victims in a former “prisoner camp” in old Yugoslavia.
The results of the meetings, unsurprisingly, do not end in mutual understanding and forgiveness. There is so much anger in his previous victim. Lanzo is not only a man who committed terrible crimes against this people, he has also killed a couple of them. Therefore, the reaction of his victims is of quiet rage, of engaging with him in order to let him see the error of his ways. The encounters are cold, filled with a palpable tension, not resulting in any positive outcome. Lanzo leaves the place in the same state he left it in the first place.
The Unforgiven tries to set an understanding view on the terrible effects of authority, on the influence of violence and crime in a generation devoid of personal meaning and identity. As allowing this new identity as the ultimate soldier, Esad Lanzo, a normal working man, turned into a monster feared by thousands of people. And in his return from a war life, the common man is met with isolation, trauma and a slow descent into oblivion.
CPH:DOX F:act Award Section
Director: Lars Feldballe-Petersen