This film started with the concept of being torn apart: not a bad concept to start with. The characters in A Stranger are torn between what was and what is, between intimacy and politics, between duty and emotion, between nationalism and friendship, between loyalty to ideology and loyalty to one’s own feelings. The main character is Croatian, and Catholic, and he has to go to a friend’s funeral – his friend was Bosnian, and Muslim. This seemingly uncomplicated social obligation brings all these aforementioned dilemmas to the fore. His seemingly routine existence becomes complicated, and underlying tensions soon reveal themselves to be deeper than they first appeared.
These dilemmas create restlessness and tension in the practical functioning of the city of Mostar, in Bosnia & Herzegovina. The city’s warped version of ‘normality’ calls for a more honest and authentic interpretation. What I mean is that the situation in Mostar is really frustrating. That is why, when we were shooting the film, we frequently held the shots for a long time, almost like scenes in a documentary. These extended shots are juxtaposed with sudden, vehement, deep, emotive, sometimes surreal outbursts on the verge of pain, but also with subdued, restrained expressions of emotions, like a voiceless scream.
The action takes place over the course of one long day, which never seems to end, with no hope of nightfall. And when the day does end, our main character will probably be content, as though he has managed to achieve something. But he has not. All he has done is manage to live another day. Time moves more slowly when you are waiting, especially if you do not know what it is you are waiting for. A final reminder: the war in Mostar ended a long time ago, 18 years ago, to be precise. This is a story about peace.