Ordinary People

A chilling, unflinching look at a raw recruit's evolution into a killing machine visualized in a minimalist, matter-of-fact style, Ordinary People promises to inspire much discussion. Always remaining with the point of view of its naïve, unthinking protagonist, the film observes twenty-year-old conscript Dzoni (Relja Popovic) over the course of one long, hot summer day that changes his life in ways he seems barely able to comprehend. The day starts as he and his barracks mates climb aboard a bus to a remote, abandoned farmhouse where a horrific task ultimately awaits them. There's an air of foreboding as the soldiers sit in the sun, smoking, drinking, and making terse conversation. As other buses pull in and unload grim, silent men in civilian clothes, it becomes wrenchingly clear what Dzoni's unit will be required to do. Set in an unspecified time in an unspecified place that is clearly the Balkans, this disturbing film has a universal resonance. It shows how the taking of human life can become a banal drudgery, just like any other unpleasant, repetitive task, and how soldiers can be brutalized as well as brutal. As Dzoni silently nurses a beer at the end of his long day, we see him examine again the new calluses on his hands, made from the constant loading and firing of his rifle. We the audience are not only witnesses, but also have the uneasy feeling of complicity in his crimes.

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