MAUS (2017) is a harrowing movie about how a war may stop but may never really end for those who survive it. Writer/director Yayo Herrero’s film starts off clumsily but gains confidence and builds enormous tension and horror by combing realism with excellent use of an unreliable narrator.
The film begins with Alex, a young German, and Selma, his Bosnian girlfriend, who are stranded on a remote road in the woods after their car breaks an axle. For Alex, this is an inconvenience, nothing more. To him, the Bosnian war was a long time ago, and the country is a safe place. Selma, however, is terrified–by landmines that may still be in the area, and by other dangers that may lurk in the forest, including an apparition that is slowly manifesting as her fear grows.
When they meet two Serbian men who offer to help, the film begins to build tension in scene after scene. We learn what Selma suffered as a child during the war, what she’s capable of, that her perception of reality is unreliable, and that again, for some, the war never really ended.
Overall, I liked it far more than I thought I would after the first few minutes. The film offers extraordinary tension in scene after scene with only a few characters in the woods, is thematically powerful, and visits moments of extreme and realistic brutality.