High Recommendation for The Maus and Discussion Explanation
High Recommendation for The Maus and Discussion Explanation - The Maus is an intense headjob of a movie that might be a little dark for some, and a little far afield for the average American. But if you are patient, it'll yield dividends. Promise. IMDB
4.5Overall Score
Reader Rating: (32 Votes)

Just stop. I know interwebs denizen, that you are flitting across the still pond of the internet as you bob and weave your way from randomness to randomness. But STOP. The Maus? The movie? The phenomenon? Needs to be watched. It is begging you to watch it now. So this top paragraph is just me saying… find it. Watch it. Come back. Here’s the official description for the film…

“Alex and Selma are a couple in love who travels to the heart of Bosnia and Herzegovina. When their car runs aground in the middle of the forest, they decide to go looking for help to the nearby town. Along the way, Selma – a Muslim survivor of the Balkan War – begins to suspect that a mysterious force accompanies them. Alex, a confident and happy young European, tries to take the crazy idea out of his mind. But Selma constantly clings to her Muslim “hamajlija” amulet, causing the mysterious force to emerge from the forest.”

It is a confusing and deeply interesting character study of someone that has survived the atrocities of war. Tip them a bit, and let’s see what happens next. So yeah, there also happens to be some wild demon craziness involved as well? But just trust me. TRUST ME. This movie is worth your time. Go find it and watch it. And then join us a few paragraphs down. But for now, here’s the trailer for The Maus.

Nope. Just watched the trailer. And it is possibly the worst representation of a movie I’ve ever seen. First it spoils quite a bit of the movie. And second it is just quick flashes of action with a dance track in the back… and then slow down for the super scary bits!!! No. (But if you are dying to see it, and you’ve seen the movie, check out what I am talking about here.)

The History and Cultural Details of The Maus

The movie opens with these words:

“Ya Hafizu, In you I trust above all things, You are my only protector, The guardian of my family, You hear my words and know my secrets… Ya Hafizu. Answer my prayers.”

I didn’t know what was happening as the movie kicked off – darkness, this prayer, and then a long shot on a woman’s face… But later on I realized what was happening. Ya Havizu is an Islamic name for God that means, The Preserver. Which, actually sets up an important detail about Selma right out of the gate… which is, she’s a Muslim. Couple that with the knowledge that Selma originally came from Bosnia-Herzegovina and with that detail? We now know that she is a Bosnian. If you aren’t exactly up on your World History, I’ve done the heavy lifting and I’ve provided you with a quick overview of the atrocities that happened there in the Yugoslav republic from 1992-1995:

“In April 1992, the government of the Yugoslav republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina declared its independence from Yugoslavia. Over the next several years, Bosnian Serb forces, with the backing of the Serb-dominated Yugoslav army, perpetrated atrocious crimes against Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) and Croatian civilians, resulting in the deaths of some 100,000 people (80 percent of them Bosniak) by 1995. It was the worst act of genocide since the Nazi regime’s destruction of some 6 million European Jews during World War II.” (from history.com if you are itching to learn more)

I remember riding a train somewhere near Athens in 1994, when I realized that I was only a half day’s journey from Sarajevo. And at that time it was known that thousands and thousands of Bosnians were being slaughtered in something of a locked box abattoir. And I had my opinions about the right and wrong of that situation, until I met a Serb on that train a little while later and we spent the next six hours discussing and debating the difficulties in that situation from top to bottom. I only wish I had a recording of that conversation because I would love to highlight how ignorant I was. And how biased he was. And the messiness of history and the chaos of war.

And can I just say, that it’s been a very very long time since I’ve seen a movie with such an important and interesting backstory setup? I suppose that if you just knew that a Bosnian and a Serb sort of hated each other… you’d have enough? So it works on a shallow level. But it is really great the more you know about the atrocities that occurred there in Yugoslavia.

The Maus and This Movie Setup

But as it relates to this movie – within the first 5 minutes we know that Selma is a Bosnian – plagued by the atrocities of war. And a few minutes after that? We meet two men that quickly identify themselves as Serbs, hostile Serbs. Then drop them in the locked box that is a forest infested by mines left over from a horrific war and you have a truly fascinating movie setup. And add to that, the fact that we can’t really trust Selma as a trust worthy narrator? Man, I loved this flick. Top all that off and add to it that there were really only 4 actors in this entire film? So much goodness.

So where was I? Oh right. Selma and Alex had just finished a holiday, and were heading to the airport when their car got stuck in the mud. They are deep in the forest. And Selma is literally scared out of her mind. She seems to be jumping at everything. But why Selma? We’ll get this figured out in time to make our flights. Right? So yeah. She is really jumpy about something. And when Alex decides they should walk to the nearest town Selma won’t stop going on about landmines. (Which, to be honest, were so critical to the plot of this movie that they should have been given a credit at the end of the movie.)

Is Selma Seeing Things?

I have to give a shout out to Rafael Reparaz, the cinematographer in charge of The Maus. He played some of the most amazing focus and camera tricks in this film I’ve seen in a while. His technique of staring at the back of someone’s head and keeping the focus in close when the chaos is happening further afield? So good. Anyway, we see some of Reparaz’s tricks early when we sort of see something in the woods that Selma is seeing. To be clear… Alex never sees these things. Which, I think is a pretty important clue for unpacking this movie later. And more importantly, Selma seems to unhinge from reality several different times as the movie progresses. Three specific and distinct times that matter most.

The first one happens at the outset. Selma envisions stepping on a landmine and then being captured and raped by two men. It happens pretty quickly and abruptly. But soon we realize that that didn’t happen. At least, didn’t happen to her now, on this trip. It may very well have happened to her in the past. The two men kill the dog, which, I believe was the one that triggered the mine. And after grappling with this scene a bit, I think we can ascertain that the dog did hit the landmine. The two men did kill the dog. But they didn’t start raping her. I believe that bit was in Selma’s mind like a PTSD shard wiggling itself into her brain from her past.

Enter the Serbian Bosnian Showdown

But when Selma and Alex come upon two men in the woods, their fortunes definitely take a decidedly negative turn. With the men there with them, and Selma refusing to translate what they are saying, Alex calls 911. Nope. This is Bosnia. To call emergency services, ie the police in Bosnia, I now know… you dial 122. See? Look at all of the brilliant things you learn on this blog. So much goodness. Anyway, while he is on the line, the two men make a bet the line goes dead and it does Alex wiggs out and swears at the two men thinking they can’t really understand him. And with that, they respond in English, “We are not Bosnians, we are Serbs. Hopefully the fucking Serbs will help your Bosnian girl.”

And just like that, dinner is ready.

Selma then has another psychotic break. Alex comes to her, calms her down. And then tells her that he is her guardian angel. And then he is shot in the chest. Selma is then dragged into the outpost, past piles of corpses, past more Serbian military men. But it quickly turns out to be another false juke. I have to say, that being inside this war ravaged mind makes for a highly stressful viewing experience! hahah.

After Selma comes back to reality, we see that Alex is fine again… and she flips out, tells him that they have to leave, that they can’t trust these men. We then learn that Serbians killed her entire family. Not only that, but the reason they are there isn’t for a holiday… it’s because the bodies of her entire family appeared after flooding uncovered their grave. So to say Selma is rightfully on edge is an under statement.

The two men then try to bribe Alex for 10,000 Euros in order to get directions on how to get out of there. But Selma grabs a knife and heads into the outpost, and Milos and Selma scuffle. And their, she sees an alien female form. Is that her mental embodiment of Ya Hafizu? And then Selma slits his throat. And one of the great things about this movie, is that we get so many false starts in this film… so many bad leads, I assumed this wasn’t real. But it was. Selma actually did slit Milos’ neck. But then, things get dicey again, because as she is sitting a ways away, the alien character cuts Milos head completely off.

Then Vuk, the other Serb, comes down and begins looking for Milos and Selma. And we get more great cinematography, with lots of spinning and playing with light. I have to say that these shots are so long, that I really didn’t notice the cuts at all. Anyway, Vuk is looking for Selma. And eventually he turns and Selma stabs him in the gut.

Selma goes and gets the injured Alex and lets him know that its safe, that both the men are dead. And when they start burying the bodies, Alex realizes that Selma cut Milos’ head clean off. And he is wondering who this woman is that he has been dating for the past year. But when Selma goes looking for her Hamajilila (which is a word for amulet) that was given to her by her father, Alex finds it in Vuk’s pocket. BUT! Vuk is still alive even though he is half buried (Revenant anyone? hahaha.) Alex goes to kill him with a big rock but he can’t do it.

Oh but Selma can. And when Alex convinces her to save his life, and goes to get a stretcher, Selma bashes his head in over and over again. There we are, staring at the back of Alex’s neck as we watch an out of focus Selma destroy Vuk’s head with a huge rock. And Alex? Oh he’s done with this woman. There is no way that he can continue on with her. Because holy crap, what has he gotten involved with here? And Selma looks at him and says, I had to do it. And Alex runs… hits a landmine.

The End. Or is it?

The Conclusion of The Maus

Because of Selma’s inability to distinguish her psychosis from reality, we really have no idea if Alex actually did step on a landmine. We really don’t know what is real with that ending at all. But we do know that Alex is alive afterwards. And we see him and another woman heading to a picnic in the park as Alex tries to piece his life back together again. But as our hope for his life crescendos… a sound like a bomb going off hits the park. And people run for cover.

The camera spins and spins around Alex as he is looking for the danger. And then, sliding out of nowhere, is a blurry form of a woman, holding an AK-47, standing in front of him. Roll credits.

The Maus Movie Explained and Discussed

Man there was a lot going on in this “simple” movie. I read one review of it, and they sort of discounted the movie because they easily dismissed the fantastical elements of the movie as illogical, and unexplainable. And strange to boot. Personally, the Ya Hafizu elements of the movie are the easiest to understand. And so simple, I’m not really going to give you any alternative theories for this.

This Hafizu alien character? It is just simply a dark embodiment of Selma herself. Alex set himself up as her guardian angel, but we saw how well that went for her. And so, Selma’s true guardian angel? Is herself. But an evil, and horrible version of herself that embodies itself in Selma’s mind alone. But what about that ending? A couple things could be happening there.

The Maus Ending Explained Theory 1

Could it be that Alex never made it out alive? Maybe when he turned to run, and danced on that landmine, it ended his life? And there Selma stood, baffled and confused as this alternate reality played out in her mind? Hey, weirder things definitely happened right in front of our eyes over the course of this movie.

The Maus Ending Explained Theory 2

Or maybe Alex does with the initial gunshot to his chest and the entire rest of the movie is Selma scrabbling to stay sane?

The Maus Ending Explained Theory 3

Better yet, what if Alex has become like Selma? This traumatic war story of his own has fractured his brain? And now, peacefully separated from Selma, he finds himself at a get together at a park. Quiet. Restful. Children playing everywhere. And his brain can take it. Now his Ya Hafizu, his preserver, is a vision of Selma, like Selma envisioned Hafizu as a faceless alien-esque female shape. And this chaos of the park? It isn’t really happening. Maybe its just another movie double back, like we had so many times at the onset of the film?

The Maus Ending Explained Theory 4

Or, simple enough… Alex and Selma survive the mine blast. And somehow, some way, they finally get themselves to the airport. They separate amenably. Share high fives… and Alexa says, you are a crazy homicidal space clown, see you on the other side, and they go their separate ways. A few months, and a counselor later, Alex is out on his first couple of dates with new-non-Selma gal, and low and behold? Selma didn’t take the whole “crazy homicidal space clown” epithet too well. So she, and her AK-47? Oh yeah, they decided to join the party at the park.

Which, if theory 4 is the real deal… explains a lot. It defines Selma is insane. It clarifies the flashbacks and the atrocities she went through during the war. But mainly it explains Selma as completely out of her mind as a result. Right? Sure, she had the gumption to survive. But she also crossed a non-arbitrary line not once, but twice. She cut one guy’s head clean off. And she bashed the other guys head in, after he was harmless and gutted, lying in a grave. She was well well over the line of the moral divide. Alex even made it clear, you do this? And we are done. And yet, Selma was not to happy about Alex deciding that they were done. And so she was there, in the park, ready to state her opinion loud and clear.

Final Thoughts on The Maus?

I adored this movie. I was worried in the first 2 minutes that this thing was too off the rails for me. But nope. I absolutely loved this movie. It was confusing enough that you had to grapple with it. It was grounded in a history that we as Americans don’t normally see movies based in. It was weird enough to be interesting. Non-linear. And just four actors? So much goodness here. Did you guys enjoy it? Too dark? Too violent? Too crazy? Thoughts? Man I loved this film.

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41 Responses

  1. PauliRN

    I loved this movie too. You are too kind to the Alex character. In my mind he’s all talk and no action. He’s always making promises that he can’t keep… ie: get them out of the woods safe, keep Selma safe, be her guardian angel. He has NO IDEA what Selma went through and has no reason to be horrified by what she did to those pigs who abused her, taunted her and would have killed them BOTH. He should be grateful for her “temporary insanity” that allowed her to kill those men and save both their lives. Alex was a wimp… all talk, no action and then trying to take the moral high ground.. ugh. He bugged me.

  2. Taylor Holmes

    Oh I agree completely. Alex was definitely the “sanity” check gone wrong for sure. And sure, she is how they made it out 100%. But she isn’t right either. The ending for a small example? hahaha.

    But I totally get your point and don’t disagree.

  3. Ghost

    I hated Alex with a passion.. For most of the movie I was hoping someone would kill him. What an annoying character..

  4. Ray Van Raamsdonk

    Even though some people gave it zero stars, I also liked the movie and thought Alex was a jerk.

  5. Liliana

    I’m with you Paulin RM Alex was a a total whip if he did live he should be grateful to have Selma and his morality totally unrealistic in the grim circumstances and yes Selma isn’t right either who would be after her history theory 4 plausible.

  6. RA

    Great movie indeed. Thanks for the well written review.
    The camerawork is excellent.

    Below contains spoilers
    To me the movie came across as a metaphor and a pretty big one at it to. It is all about wartrauma suffered from what happened at Srebenica. A tragic genocide in a very recent history happening within Europe.
    Selma represents the Muslim/Bosnian minorty, Alex represents Europa/UN. And the two Serbs the war criminals.
    Alex says at various points he (Europe) is her (Bosnian minority) guardian angel. And he fails. Just like Europe failed to help in Srebenica. At one point just before Selma kills Vuk she straightforward mentions this (“As a kid we learned to scream for help. Where were you?”

    The ending is a bit more difficult but I guess the director connects this Europe failing to help those Muslims that we created our own terrorists. Not sure though.

  7. Rob

    I agree that the movie seems a metaphor for the way Europe handled the crisis. Also the “we create our own terrorist” by Ra seems very insightful.

  8. Toro

    I agree with RA’s metaphor theory. And as for the ending, I would take it a step further and say that the connection is in the “mentality” that Alex (Europe) has that has brought terrorism home. Being the “nice guy” and a “good European” with his morality. This is what allowed the Serbs to slaughter so many and this is what has allowed terrorism to take root back home; forcing his morality without fully understanding that his morality only works with those that share the same morals and play by the same rules.

  9. Colleen

    Thank you!!! I LOVED your review and synopsis. spot on! Please keep this up with every movie every made lolcoll

  10. Randi Morgan

    I feel bad saying this but I didn’t love the movie.

    Like everyone else, I wasn’t a big fan of Alex, but I certainly didn’t hate him.

    At first I thought Alex was blown up by the mine and we were following Selma through the park. And then we had the reveal, that it wasn’t her.

    My final takeaway was, that those of us who have not actually lived through the horrors of war will NEVER be able to understand what the people who have deal with every single day. That kind of trauma cannot be understood if you haven’t been there.

    I don’t believe Selma was actually at the park. The figure of Selma is the representation of trauma for Alex now.

    This was a terribly sad movie.

  11. PauliRN

    Toro – you are spot on. I loved the line …”forcing his morality without fully understanding his morality only works with those that share the same morals and play by the same rules.” That says it beautifully!

  12. Jane

    I keep thinking about the phone call Alex makes at the end. Who is Billy? Maybe it was to Selma and she was actually raped and was pregnant by that bastard or even Alex and they have kept in contact through this although can’t be in a relationship. Random theory? I may be seeking the happy ending.

  13. Outy Banjo

    I’ve read quite a bit on the Bosnian conflict, and so any movie touching on this subject becomes automatically interesting.

    I liked RA’s political metaphor theory. It’s even made more solid by the fact that Vuk refers to Alex as “Europe” at one point(“…and then maybe I’ll play with Europe”). It possibly happened even more than what I noticed.

    And I think Taylor’s Theory 3 about Selma being the vision of Alex’s trauma also correct, and the explosion/gunshot being a psychotic episode of fantasy. The phone call? I’ll have to hear more theories before I feel like that one is explained.

    I’d like to add my own theory which I don’t necessarily buy into, but I did think it possible throughout the movie: The two Serbs were truly there to help, and Selma’s delusions turned homicidal, so she killed 2 innocent people and traumatized Alex who couldn’t believe what this damaged woman did out of nowhere.

    I find it funny that the cinematography was praised. I actually found the short focus and long shots to be over-used to the point of being obnoxious. The long shots felt like an hour of feature-length filler to the 30-minute short story. I thought the short focus, and obscured elements were clever; The first time. The second time. Ok, you got anything else now?

    The scope of the story/backstory disappointed me a little bit. It felt very college project at times, but I don’t fault someone for doing a good job with no budget, which they did! I hate when movies over explain, but also when they under explain, and things start to turn into an abstract painting where all answers are correct. I don’t think this movie went full David Lynch, but sometimes, I get the impression from movies like this, that not even the storyteller knows the truth; And that bothers me–A lot.

    Thanks for sharing all of your ideas, everyone! I’m happy this post came up in search.

  14. Vlad

    I have to say that Alex in the ending, at Germany… That one was the pre-movie Alex. His face was to happy, too light, too warm. After those events he would never more look like that. And even less if he stepped in that mine! If he survived, which is really not likely, we would notice his face and body marked forever.

    Not only that, but I would say he even looks clearly younger!

    Very interesting movie, but makes no sense whichever way I look at it…. It seems the director and or screewriter wanted to mess a bit with our heads, to let us guessing… AND commenting the movie! :)

  15. Vlad

    I have to say that Alex in the ending, at Germany… That one was the pre-movie Alex. His face was to happy, too light, too warm. After those events he would never more look like that. And even less if he stepped in that mine! If he survived, which is really not likely, we would notice his face and body marked forever.

    Not only that, but I would say he even looks clearly younger!

    Very interesting movie, but makes no sense whichever way I look at it…. It seems the director and or screenwriter wanted to mess a bit with our heads, to let us guessing… AND commenting the movie! :)

  16. Chicky

    Right after the bombing when Alex first turns around he’s wearing Selma’s amulet. You only see it for a
    couple seconds. The other shots of him spinning in circles it is hidden under his shirt collar. I think Selma died in the final mine explosion and he wears it now to remember her by but now he has what I’m going to call a “curse” and that’s why he saw what seemed to be her at the end.

  17. Olbloke

    Outy banjos last comments are spot on. There seems to be a trend in independent films now where the ending leaves the viewer scratching their heads in confusion. Sure, if well done it can be refreshing considering most Hollywood stuff is formula written and entirely predictable which leaves no room for imagination. Yep, the couple who dislike each other in the beginning fall in love, the nasty guy main character isn’t really a nasty guy in the end and the bad guys get their just desserts…..boring !
    But the Ending for Maus pushes the abstract ploy beyond reason and therefore ruins the film……give us some clues to work with, even if they are subtle.
    I had no problems with the rest of the movie, I knew the history in detail as I taught it in high school so I therefore understood Selma’s horrid dilemma.
    But note that another trend in movies now, especially those made for Netflix, that women are the strong or lead characters whereas men are weaker or subordinate. Alex was a pretender, he was a pussy who thought he was the alpha male protector….but Selma saved him

  18. Tom

    I think Selma stepped on the mine at the end. It then cuts to Alex in the park who was apprehensive to go to in the first place. I believe the ending may have triggered a hallucination and never really happened. Selma died as he was walking away from her by an explosion and maybe he feared the same would happen to his new girlfriend when he separated from her briefly hence the hallucination and explosion. He’s wearing the pendant so seems to still be fond of the late Selma and has never gotten over her or the trauma of their experience.

  19. Tom

    I think Selma stepped on the mine at the end. It then cuts to Alex in the park who was apprehensive to go to in the first place. I believe the ending may have triggered a hallucination and never really happened. Selma died as he was walking away from her by an explosion and maybe he feared the same would happen to his new girlfriend when he separated from her briefly hence the hallucination and explosion. He’s wearing the pendant so seems to still be fond of the late Selma and has never gotten over her or the trauma of their experience.

  20. Jenny Hutchinson

    He is wearing her amulet, given by her father that was so precious to her; so much so that at one point he questions whether she loves him or the amulet more? Selma would never give this up and for that reason I surmise that she died in the blast and he survived. He now carries his own ptsd horrors around with him that he is trying to make sense of and get past. I think she is now his protector perhaps this is why her shadowy rifle toting form stands behind him ready. Or maybe he feels that she is because ultimately that is the role she carried for both of them in the forest; it was Selma who fought the aggressors not Alex. He was quite the polar opposite to her strength- he was sensitive, naive and quite obsequious when he sensed danger and the power play of the Serbs turned the tide so quickly against him/ them. I thoroughly enjoyed the film for all the complexities it offered. It was quite the journey but worth all the anticipation and angst.

  21. Bill the Movie Buff

    I do not really know who died in the forest when the mine went off — Alex or Selma. I suspect it was Selma. But then, it could have been Alex, with the ending scene as his dying thoughts. What I do know is as follows.

    At the beginning of the movie, dialogue goes like this…

    ALEX: “We’re in a beautiful forest in Bosnia”
    SELMA: “I’m not going into that forest. It’s dangerous. There are mines out there.”
    ALEX: “The map says there are no mines out there.”
    SELMA: “You think we are in some park in Berlin?”

    Selma KNOWS the forest is not a safe place… and it turns out to be so.

    At the end of the movie, Alex finds himself in a park in Berlin… or at least THINKS he is in a park in Berlin… and it, too, proves not to be a safe place when a bomb (mine) goes off … perhaps killing Ella (or is it the mine killing Selma in the forest… as well as Alex?).

    All in all, a very interesting movie… not a sci-fi film but a psychological drama. I need to watch it a few more times.

  22. Luke

    I can’t get past the fact that the Bosnians bandaged and treated Selma. To me that indicates that the danger is in Selma’s mind, as does how she fears danger from the immediate beginning. I’m not sure about all the “death within a vision within a death” stuff, too long-winded for me.

    I liked the political metaphors and I think they fit quite well, but I feel that it’s a bit too abstract to be true.

    The (poorly quoted, sorry) line at the beginning “..we’re not in a park in Berlin” and then the ending scene feel too coincidental to be so. My immediate thought was that she became a Muslim terrorist, the likes of which we see today, as a result of the horrific details of her past.

    The “alien” could just be a way for her to disconnect from the atrocities she commits; it is in fact her, but at the same time, not her. A more primal and instinct-driven part of herself. Or it could in fact just be some mythological being common in horror movies, but I don’t like that idea as much.

    If you’re all the way down here, thanks for reading. :)

  23. Taylor Holmes

    Great comment. And YEAH we got all the way down there! hahaha. That’s what we do out here, think critically, and turn these cool movies inside out. I’ve seen some commenters comment more than my original post. Actually happens pretty often! hahaha.

    I built THiNC. so that cool ideas like yours, and your alien atrocity theory (which it shall henceforth be known as!) can be heard and discussed. hahah.


  24. Mack

    For me the ending extends the political metaphor to include the continuing terrorist repercussion of a hapless European non-intervention. Sort of a “fail to keep the peace and you will have no peace” kind of thing.

  25. Diego fiorillo

    The beauty of this movie is that all of you are correct.

    Incredible film, and shot brilliantly.

  26. Robin

    Thanks for taking this on, it is an interesting and visceral movie. I agree with the metaphor theory. And great points from Luke on this. One thing concerning your recap of the action… At the end of the movie, I went back to the land mine scene feeling I had missed something. After watching that scene again, it looks like Selma was the one who stepped on the mine. The camera is from Alex’ perspective. That doesnt mean he wasnt killed…but it made sense to me why Alex was in a park later on, if indeed he was really there.

  27. EP

    Hey all,

    Interesting discussion. One thing I would disagree with is the “alien thing” being either God or Selma. First of all because I don’t think the community represented here (Muslims) would be cool with a depiction of God in relationship to a Mulsim woman at all, let alone in this creepy way. I personally think it’s supposed to be the Evil Eye. If you notice there a bullet hole or gash with blood pouring out of it on the screenshot Mr. Holmes posted above. Also those amulets and her invocations were to keep it at bay. However, as history proves time and again violence begets violence; evil, evil.

    Selma was justified to protect herself with violence but like the origins of most sympathetic villains this violence crosses a threshold, turns into ugly, brutal revenge for self satisfaction.

    As for the ending, I’m going to go with they both die. Or rather the relationship does. That the geopolitical metaphor serves a dual purpose and in this instance how trama effects this couple. How Selma opens up and shares the trauma (“[They] said you should talk about it, I’m not trying to force you but if you want to talk about it I’m here.”; “You said you wanted to understand me.”). Alex’s complete ignorance, naivete, and brutal awakening. And, his unwillingness to pay the price to set her free, he is also unwilling to fight. I think it’s about Selma’s unwillingness to share her history and then the revelation that she is unable to forgive unable to “move on,” the way Alex wants her to. Alex is inwilling to love this Selma.

    At the park he is fine except a small scar on his face. But he will never be the same, he is vigilant. He is aware evil is real and evil has followed him home.

    It has to do with how violence and trauma spread. What was once a beautiful Bosnian forest with fresh air and sunshine is now a place of mass graves of family and foe of senseless violence, floods, and weapons of war. I think the ending is a very pointed warning: “if you think the beautiful, peaceful park where you are is immune to evil, think again.”

    The woman with the gun at the end of the film may be Selma but it also may be his new girlfriend (is she British? German?) who now has fresh trauma of her own now.

    Thought provoking film and analysis. Thank you for sharing.

  28. DM

    I absolutely loved this movie. It took awhile to understand how damaged Selma really was, and to grasp first, the source of her suspicions and fears as relayed in her visions, and later, why she could only really trust herself for protection. Near the end, she spoke about screaming for help as a child, and asked Alex, “Do you hear me screaming now? Do you?” It was terrible to grasp that, when there is no one to hear or respond to a child’s screams of terror and pain, the child will eventually stop screaming and surrender to the nightmare in silence. As Alex had never gone through these traumas, his code of moral rightness had never been challenged by the crudeness and cruelties of basic survival. His values, most likely aligning pretty well with our own values, seem weak and affected in the unnatural world they are in. Even without a forest, it becomes clear that he would never understand much of anything about her at all, below any surface level. He certainly could never comprehend that to destroy the Serb’s head was a necessity for her; something he considered monstrous and unforgivable was to her the only way to prevent the evil from coming back after her again and again, just as it did throughout the movie, to haunt and torment her, and that she would never feel safe or unhunted without completing this act. As for the ending – I am not quite sure what I think about that yet. Somehow her vision of the monster, or is it her God, equates with him seeing her after the ending explosion, but the right connection and words eludes me just yet, but I know I will think about it for a long time.

  29. Malik Watkins

    Thank you for taking the time to write this review! I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, and it was a great follow-up to read your review!! This is not against you, but history.com is not a valid source in this instance. I won’t go further because I don’t like to support situations where atrocities get compared and then people begin to compete on who had it worse. However, there is a valid implication on severity related to why Europe, UN, and the U.S. intervened in the Bosnia atrocities and ignored an extremely severe one taking place simultaneously. With that said, that is a side point…and I really enjoyed your review and write-up!! Much appreciated!! :)

  30. GT

    Thank you for writing this review. It clear up a few things. Your review has invited so many others who have share their thoughts and I am amaze that I have missed out so many details. However, I would not want to revisit some of the illusion scenes Selma had, though I am very tempted to watch this again to look for the details that is mentioned.

  31. DoGo

    not hetting the ending and After reading all your comments…. I think the ending showed that Alex was so nieve he got both girl friends killed. Used by the enemy by being to trusting.. Via the Billy phone call.

  32. SFisher

    I think the final scene was Alex’s mind just as he was dying from the mine in Bosnia. As a defence mechanism to protect him from the trauma, his mind imagined him safe and moving on in a park in Berlin,
    but as his life slipped, he is dragged back to reality with the bomb in Berlin being the reminder of real day mine.

    Or, the sound of the bomb in Berlin was the gunshot when Selma shot him when he was standing in front of the Serbs graves as he prevented her from getting to them,
    and the whole Berlin thing was again, his brain trying to protect him. That is why his final view/or our final view as the movie ends – was of her in the gun.

    But I love the theory passed around before that Selma’s final appartiton was “his” unresolved PTSD or Dark self or ego.

    Also love the metaphoric reference to Alex being Europe and UN.

    Love all your analysis. Amazing to read.

  33. Bhavika

    Honestly, Alex claimed to want to “understand” Selma but did nothing about it and even dismissed her very real PTSD. For somebody who said, “Stay back, I’ll handle this”, he sure doesn’t know how to.
    As for the movie, i had knots in my stomach throughout. Ignoring the brilliant cinematography and camera handling, the movie itself was such a masterpiece – a dark storyline with no relief. Although, now i feel like there’s a dark cloud above my head that i can’t rid off.

  34. Honey

    Well I liked the movie from the start but the ending was not clear enough though the audience just conclude the ending from their own…and the figure angel like creature should not be that so horrible…idea was good but could be interpreted much better…anyhow movie brought me to search enough to conclude the ending but all in vain…

  35. Lex Fox

    I thought it was something like option 3. I don’t know if the last landmine in the forest was real, and I’m not sure it matters. Selma is effectively dead, not only in Alex’s eyes, but likely in her own. Whether the explosion in the park happened is also debatable. My takeaway is that Alex has become like Selma. He finally understands her. He didn’t in that final moment in the forest, but now that the wound is no longer fresh, he has similar psychological scarring to hers.

    He also apparently has a type. But that lead-on isn’t just there to trick the audience, it’s to show us how he’s still trying to rebuild his life before the traumatic events, yet he cannot escape them. I think, quite likely, neither of the last two explosions was real, they were metaphorical.

  36. Cheshire

    Okay so I found the movie interesting. Though it was almost too extremely slow. Alex had promised to not leave her and what does he do? Leaves into the woods. Selma had her guy basically telling her don’t trust them and she was right. Alex would not listen and when I said that he’s going to get shot he got shot right after. Very ironic. Selma did everything correctly. If two guys tried to kill me I would make sure they wouldn’t be able to follow me. And what’s with the stupid ‘let’s just turn my back towards the guy who’s still alive and tried to kill me’ ?!?!? I mean also how did he know where her amulet was? And how come he never gave it back? I thought the alien like thing was a goddess or something along the lines and when I searched ya hafizu it meant protector so I mean I was in the ball park here.

  37. Nancy E Mescon

    The film was okay. But what bothered me again, because I just watched the Lodge, is how these characters neglect their dogs!!! The boyfriend just let’s his dog jump out of the car into a forest! No leash!! In an unknown forest? So the couple are walking around and no thought as to where the dog is? Sorry, that makes the story for me not believable. And of course the dog dies! Please stop using dogs in scary horror films!!

  38. Myles

    I think you just scratch the surface here. The whole movie is a metaphor for the Bosnian genocide. Alex represents ignorance of Europe as they sat by and let it all happen. At one point in the film she repeatedly asks him “Where were you?” This is seemingly a honest question but it represents the anger and frustrations about European inaction. Alex constantly tells her to calm down throughout the film and ignores her. Then when she turns and helps herself (by murdering the men) he can’t possibly be with her anymore. She has turned to extremist for European tastes. This makes the end of the film so much more significant because with Selma’s appearance at the end of the film they are presumably in a European setting. I think the meaning of the ending is that extremism always comes home and that Europe is facing a reckoning for letting the wounds of the Bosnian genocide fester.


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