Last Waltz in Sarajevo (or Belle Epoque)

Last-Waltz-in-Sarajevo-1990

Belle epoque ili poslednji valcer u Sarajevu (1990 / 2007)
Director: Nikola Stojanović
Actors: Slobodan Ćustić, Davor Janjić, Vita Mavrić
Runtime: 135 min

On the 28th June 1914, 19-year-old Gavrilo Princip, member of the secret revolutionary group Young Bosnia (Mlada Bosna), shot dead the archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne.

The film begins and ends with an assassination attempt, showing that the youth, in absence of conditions for collective resistance to oppression and in the tradition of the anarchist propaganda by the deed, turned to the methods of individual armed actions as a way to express the aspiration for freedom of the South Slavic peoples.

The movie begins in 1910 with the unsuccessful assassination attempt on general Varešanin, the Governor of Bosnia and Herzegovina by Bogdan Žerajić. He fired shots at the carriage in which general Varešanin was riding, and with the last bullet he killed himself. In the movie, the camera focuses on a spinning wheel of the overturned carriage, symbolizing the constant forward motion of history. This assassination attempt became a turning point for the political views of the youth in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where in the coming years a whole generation of young people grew up on the myth of Bogdan Žerajić. The police decapitated Žerajić, kept his skull as an example of a head of an anarchist and buried his body at a secret location. The youth managed to find his grave and it became a place where young people would take oaths to fight for the ideals of liberty.

“Belle Epoque” deals with the period between 1910 and 1914 in Sarajevo, the decline of the “golden age” in Europe, just before the First World War and it shows the development of social circumstances that eventually lead to the assassination on the 28th June 1914, which served as an excuse for the imperialist forces to push Europe into a bloody war for the redistribution of colonies, a war in which four empires disappeared, 20 million people were killed and about the same number of people were wounded and maimed.

In the European public today, 100 years after the assassination, we can often hear accusations that Gavrilo Princip and the comrades were Serbian nationalists and are to be blamed for provoking the First World War. This is a double lie and an attempt to re-interpret historical events in accordance with today’s interests of the ruling class. The case of Young Bosnia can not be discussed as a case of Serbian nationalism, because the Yugoslav revolutionary youth were committed to the idea of unification of the South Slavs, but also to the ideas of social justice, federalism, anti-clericalism, anti-parliamentarism and anarchism, and the blame for the outbreak of the First World War is primarily borne by the ruling class of the imperial powers of the early XX century Europe.

It is important to understand the historical context of the Assassination at Sarajevo. At the Congress of Berlin in 1878, European powers decided to allow Austria-Hungary to occupy Bosnia and Herzegovina. Until then Bosnia was an unstable province of the Ottoman Empire, where the Muslim feudal lords ruled over Christian (both Orthodox and Catholic) population. Hard life and religious discrimination caused internal turmoil and frequent rebellions. The uprising of 1875, which got support from Serbia and Montenegro, in 1876 turned into Serbo-Turkish war, which was one from the causes for the Russo-Turkish war in 1877. Austro-Hungarian Empire, which the Western powers entrusted the stabilization of Bosnia and Herzegovina, announced in 1908 the act of annexation and formally annexed Bosnia thus crushing the hopes of independence and freedom for the South Slavic population. The situation was already difficult because the Austro-Hungarian occupation authorities did not abolish feudalism or perform agrarian reform – the serfs were allowed to buy themselves out of serfdom, mostly through loans with unfavourable interest rates. Together with the industrial development and exploitation of natural resources of Bosnia, this created an unbearable combination of feudalism and capitalism. The military and police repression kept the population under control and it was just a question of when and how this large discontent would surface.

This movie is not only a historical drama, but also a story of intellectual growing up, sexual awakening, passion, vice and great love. Carriage wheel which continues to spin after Žerajić’s failed assassination transforms into a colourful wheel of the satirical erotic cabaret at the inn, which is actually a brothel. The story is very dynamic and unravels in a triangle between young revolutionaries fighting against the government, the police, and the brothel, complemented by mistrust, espionage and various intrigues.

The movie was made in 1990, shortly before the bloody breakup of Yugoslavia. During the war, the material had remained hidden in surrounded Sarajevo, only to be reassembled and edited in 2007, 17 years later. That is why some consider this the last Yugoslavian movie.

Based on actual events.

You can watch this film online or  download it for free.

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