A freezer lorry with tens of corpses resurfaces in the Serbian Danube, while five mass graves are unearthed in a suburb of Belgrade. It all smells of death and impunity in modern-day Serbia, a country that engaged in a war against the separatist Kosovo less than 20 years ago.
In Depth Two, the victims of war are never visible. Instead, it is their voices and the land that are scarred. They narrate their horrific fate in vivid detail, their speech sometimes distorted and breaking down, and their faces are never shown. These voices are embodied in the grey, brute and sad landscape: the cracked walls are covered with bullet holes, most of the buildings are derelict and long abandoned, the soil is muddy and covered with garbage.
The film opens on the Danube near the town of Tekija, at the location where the lorry was pulled out of the water. The words of a government worker at the scene explaining what he experienced firsthand are paired with silent and somber shots of the river location. The words of other witnesses in Belgrade – mainly Kosovars – are also combined with scenes filmed at their respective locations.
There is very little contextualisation in the movie. Those not familiar with the geography and the history of the Balkans may struggle to follow the film narrative. But this does not compromise the impact of the movie. The images and the stories told are so powerful and skilfully juxtaposed that the subject matter becomes universal. The urgency of the drama experienced by these people is palpable to anyone with human sentiments. This is a documentary that speaks directly to your most profound feelings and imagination.
A code of silence still prevails in Serbia regarding the atrocities of the Balkan wars. Depth Two challenges and breaks such code, forcing people to remember and recognise the damage caused by the ancient ethnic hatred in the region. The Serbian director Ognjen Glavonic explained to DMovies that many people in the Serbian film industry simply chose not to talk about the film, instead of criticising it – perhaps as a testament of their tacit complicity. He also thinks that Serbians are not collectively guilty for the horrors, and that individuals are not to blame the killings. “The problem is self-victimisation; we are always pointing fingers at each other”, he concludes.
Depth Two was presented in the Open City Documentary Film Festival in London, which finished yesterday. The film deservedly won the Audience Prize. A similarly non-contextualised, symbolic and aesthetically outstanding film called The Great Wall (Tadhg O’Sullivan, 2016) was also part of the Festival – click here in order to read our review.
You can watch the film trailer below: