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Banovic Strahinja (Vatroslav Mimica, Yugoslavia, 1983)

Featuring Sanja Vejnovic, Franco Nero, Dragan Nikolic, Rade Serbedzija, Nikola-Kole Angelovski, Gert Fröbe, Petar Banicevic, Miodrag Radovanovic, Stojan 'Stole' Arandjelovic, Rados Bajic, Mirko Boman and Gisela Fackeldey

A brutal romance based on a folk legend from the time of the Ottoman invasions of Serbia late in the 14th Century. Lady Andja, young wife of Banovic Strahinja, is carried off on horseback by the leader of a band of Turkish marauders. We follow the nobleman's seemingly hopeless quest to find and return her.

The art direction and atmosphere is wonderfully authentic, and some of the effects are executed with Italian-style cruelty and gusto. The main musical theme, a melancholy flutey air, is beefed up with string orchestration, luckily without the overblown Italian treatment this time. Later on it is well complemented by some haunting choral chants.

While the action scenes are impressively staged there are not enough of them, and too many scenes of talking around campfires and dining tables, especially in the middle section. Overall the pace tends to drag.

Franco Nero is a surprise choice for the title role, but he's a more strangely sympathetic actor than any other that might play the heroic knight. He conveys a sense of sadness, not just for his loss and the hopelessness of his crusade, but also for his suspicion that it might be unworthy of him. Sanja Vejnovic is a perfect damsel, but some say she is likely fickle; wouldn't it be simpler just to start again with another one?

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