The Happiest Man in the World (2023)

Directed by Teona Strugar Mitevska

Asja, a 45-year-old single woman living in Sarajevo, meets Zoran, a 46-year-old banker, at a dating event. Zoran is not there looking for love though, but for forgiveness. During the war in 1993 he was shooting at the city from the opposite side, and he wants to meet his first victim. Now, they both have to relive the pain in their search for forgiveness.

Seattle International Film Festival 2023: Film #11

Despite the premise of a blind matchmaking event, this film is really about post-traumatic stress disorder induced through war, explored through the (potentially-hypothetical) question: what would you do if you met the actual soldier who shot and injured you during a civil war...? Could you forgive them? And, if so, what, exactly, might that achieve?

Even more interestingly, this film also explores what you might do if you were the solider in that same situation. Unfortunately, though, despite some striking sound design in the first act, and a number of disarming moments in the second, the film unravels in its final third, with many overly-extended sequences making points that had already been firmly established already. (Interestingly, think we get a reference to Claire Denis' 1999 Beau Travail in the disco scene in this act, but it's applicability to our protagonist's situation is rather unclear.) Still, whilst the film's broader themes might not be so successful (eg. the potential allusion to the international community and/or criminal justice via the bland hotel conference room being called 'Zurich'), there are some quirky comic touches and tone here and there.