The Third Half
The Third Half is a bold attempt at grasping life in Macedonia in the middle of the Second World War, addressing a tightening noose around the people, as well as the deportation of Jews. It is a courageous undertaking in regards to theme choice, not without its difficulties.
Casting aside a few honest exceptions, Mitrevski's Third Half offers little in terms of storytelling. I think its biggest fault lies, as with all subpar films, in the lack of a convincing story. With several red herrings thrown around in the first half, there was confusion about the story that is supposed to be followed. Ranging from possibly being a romantic tale, to a tale of a football team's last matches, to the deportation of Jews under Bulgarian occupation, it decides the main narrative is every one of these and none of these. Because it hesitates, it gets caught up in itself, swallowing a considerable amount of appeal and dragging many aspects down. There is no clear protagonist, and those that may seem close to one are unconvincing and uninspiring. With too many characters and a somewhat balanced screen time for each one, there is not enough time or substance to be able to sympathize with any one.
Yet it is difficult to blame the end result for an error in writing. No production value can salvage the fact that the story is a far cry from being polished. As such what arises is a motion picture with a sequence of connected events too incoherent and muddled to follow as a single entity. The insecurity is felt across the board.
Choice of music is unsurprisingly unsure of itself, except for the traditional “More sokol pie” which pops up at several points. It's one of the few steps Mitrevski's film takes in a decisively positive direction. One of the scenes in which the song is included is snatched from Curtiz' Casablanca. This is not an issue in itself, were it not for the fact that it poorly holds up to the original. A combination of ineffective editing, the terrible sound design, and more importantly the lack of significance butchers the homage. A critical moment rendered shallow due to lack of context. A recurring theme within the film is sparing the spotlight for critical moments.
It is not uncommon for The Third Half to inexplicably focus so little on the significant story shifts. The first two football matches are devoid of action, the third is completely omitted and the final game is not any different from the other two. The climactic goal is cheated away from the viewer, as neither does one see the goal itself, nor do the succeeding events give it proper attention. It moves on to show the treatment of the Jews in Macedonia, a series of scenes I believe would have had more impact had they been placed earlier. This type of lesser and greater incongruencies bring about a lot of questions which are left unanswered, devolving The Third Half into a less than pleasurable motion picture.
Although I believe most of it is below average, some parts are indeed well executed and well thought of. The most intriguing feature of The Third Half by far is Sammel's character. The Ashkenazi provides some much-needed alleviation, as it is a joy hearing him throw around orders and banter about the essence of football. He is also among the few with clearly audible dialogue. There is extreme difficulty in hearing the characters' lines, as the sound design is strangely chaotic. It could also be blamed on the actors who often times find themselves mumbling in noisy soundscapes.
As a whole, The Third Half leans on the weight of its story, rather than its execution. Though perhaps what sticks to the very end is the lack of humility towards the heavy-hearted, true story. It loses itself in the beginning, and in trying desperately to cover all the angles, it completely forgets about having heart. Stories of such grandeur deserve more.