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Common Man's View: 'The Maus'

An Experience in Things I Am Gratefully Unfamiliar With

By Caleb ShermanPublished 6 years ago 4 min read

A symptom of just being a common man, sometimes I know exactly what I want to say about a movie, and sometimes I watch one of these Netflix Originals and I come out the other side having no idea what I've just watched, or what to say about that feeling of uncertainty.

The Maus, an intense look at post-war trauma directed by Yayo Herrero, follows Selma (and arguably Alex, her boyfriend—but let's be real, this is Selma's story) who gets lost in the forests of Bosnia. Through flashbacks and a bit of dialogue we learn that Selma was formerly taken captive during the Bosnian war, alongside her family who were only recently found dead, the burial services serving as the purpose for Selma and Alex's trip.

This thriller is filled with sequences that will cause viewers to question the sanity of the main characters, up to the point that things start going downhill for the two lovers. Herrero does an excellent job of building tension, between mysterious apparitions, tragedies both imagined and totally real, and at least one surprisingly strong early sequence of violence. Without going into too great of detail—which we'll get into in a moment—it's enough to say that I spent much of the movie uncertain of who or what the villain was. While I personally didn't come out the other end of The Maus's cavernous tunnels, I think it was a well-executed movie. I can appreciate it, even if I didn't entirely enjoy it. 4/5, for execution and performance, if not for personal appeal.

Now, down to the nitty-gritty. First and foremost, I went into this movie expecting a monster flick, not certain why—the description certainly did not lead me down that path, perhaps the cover did—and it certainly was not. However, The Maus does present an interesting monster-esque character, Selma's Ya Hafizu, the guardian spirit she calls upon while gripping the “hamajlija” (thank God that was in the movie description) her father gave her. The Ya Hafizu certainly appears as an inhuman, if humanoid, figure that inflicts great violence at one point in the movie, and sits in shadows and scares the bajeebus out of viewers at numerous other points, but it is not an evil entity, nor a monster technically.

I fear that I went into this movie having too little (i.e. none) of an understanding of both Bosnia and Islam. Whilst I'm not one to judge a religion without first understanding at least some large portion of it, I have literally no knowledge of anything within Islam aside from some very basic knowledge, and the general Southern Baptist view on it—not a positive view mind. So, when this movie starts to bring in Bosnian Muslims, words that I can not possibly pronounce from appearance, and “guardian angels” that terrify me into near paralysis, that's when I realized I was completely out of my depth.

Secondly, beyond the monster movie features, it's worth noting that at least twice, and indeed a third time at the very end of the movie, we the audience, and one character in the movie (Selma most of the time) are lead to believe that the movie is about to go WAY downhill before it comes time. The first occurrence of this is fairly early in the movie, Alex and Selma have just set out for town through the mine infested forest (which Alex insists is no longer one giant minefield) when they get separated, Alex chasing after their dog, and Selma remaining on the road. At this point, Selma encounters Vuk and Milos, the antagonists of the film. Cue Selma attempting to scamper into the forest, against many shouted warnings from Vuk and Milos, followed by the terrible sound of a mine exploding, right after hearing Alex's cry for Selma cut short. In the ensuing dust cloud we get a brief rape, agonizing rape sequence between Vuk and Selma, and then a waking scene, in which we learn that the dog, not Alex, stepped on the mine.

A little later in the movie, as Alex is tending to Selma's wound, he turns to join Milos and Vuk inside their compound, at which point we get a sound just as terrible as the mine's explosion. A gunshot rings across the viewer's speaker, followed by a brief blood splatter from Alex's back, and then Selma's love crumples to the ground. Of course, a few minutes later Selma wakes up inside the Serbian underground compound, and Alex is alive and well.

The final sequence, spoilers ahead if you've read up to this point, but not finished the movie, immediately follows the deaths of Milos and Vuk. Milos has already been slain at this point in the movie, and Alex has left Vuk in a hole in the ground. Alex has explained to Selma that, instead of killing Vuk, they're going to hand him over to the police. Following this, Vuk antagonizes Selma regarding the fates of her parents, driving her to execute him using a large rock next to the new grave. When Alex returns to find his girlfriend smashing the helpless man's skull, he runs away, crushed much like the pulpy Vuk. The chase sequence, Selma begging for Alex's forgiveness, ends with Alex swinging on his heels and screaming “Maus” at which point, one of the two triggers a mine.

This is where the movie gets a bit trippy, because now we follow Alex through a park, where he meets with a new girlfriend, who is grateful that he agreed to meet her friends. All is well until Alex goes to meet one last person, to grab a cooler or something, and a sound all too familiar to the audience by now is heard. An explosion, he wheels about and runs back to the meeting place to find all of his friends dead, and emerging from the smoke of the explosion, is none other than Selma, armed with an automatic rifle... alive and well... I honestly don't know what this part of the movie was supposed to mean!

And...that's it. That's all I really had to say. This covered most of the “scares” and surprises of the movie, to get the full picture, of course, you'll need to watch The Maus yourself.

movie review

About the Creator

Caleb Sherman

Twitch.tv streamer (Amnesia Duck), retro game enthusiast (don't ask me about Ataris though), lucky husband, and author.

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    Caleb ShermanWritten by Caleb Sherman

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