New York Daily News - Entertainment - Movie Digest: "The Great Water
At the Quad (1:30). Not rated: Mature themes.
A dying man in contemporary Macedonia reflects on his childhood at a Communist-run orphanage in post-World War II Yugoslavia. The framing device is unnecessary; what happens inside the orphanage, where the sons and daughters of anti-Communists are forced to adopt the party's strict doctrines, is powerful enough.
The film follows the developing friendship between two boys who share a determination to resist the increasingly hostile system. The boys - one is actually played by a girl, but you'd never guess - are angels in hell, and director Ivo Trajkov is way too prone to melodrama.
'The Great Water' is ultimately about the indomitability of faith, and the Christian symbolism is laid on thick. But the story, adapted from a famous behind-the-Iron-Curtain novel, sheds light on a subject few people have known about.
A Macedonian orphan’s passage into old age as a political survivorBy STEVE ERICKSON
“The Great Water” is filled with a mystical air, accompanied by plenty of Christian symbolism. Communism attempted to take the place of organized religion, wiping out centuries of tradition overnight, and Lem’s orphanage is no exception. Owning a cross is cause for punishment. Perhaps because of this prohibition, the boys take refuge in faith; Isak even seems to have the supernatural powers of a Christ- like figure
Taos Picture Show
March 30-April 3, 2005
The film successfully conveys the confusion of a young boy who is captured and incarcerated in a postwar labor camp for orphans of "political undesirables" through a strong script (adapted by Trajkov from a novel), convincing child actors, stunning cinematography, subtle symbolism and an appropriately desolate and menacing set that serves as a moody and intimidating character of its own (as well as a surprising casting twist revealed by cinematographer Suki Medencevic during the Q&A following the screening).
The young protagonist, acclimating to his confines, spends his days being indoctrinated into the righteousness of communism while endeavoring to avoid being mistreated by the overzealous, masochistic staff. He becomes mesmerized by a mysterious new arrival who helps him explore the secrets behind the walls of the camp and whose serene presence has an unusual affect on the orphans and staff alike.