- Directors: Emir Kusturica
- Producers: Pierre Spengler, Karl Baumgartner
- Writers: Emir Kusturica
- Genres: Drama, Comedy
- Actors: Lazar Ristovski
The film follows three characters through Yugoslavia’s history, from World War II to the Cold War and finally the Yugoslav wars.
The film opens in Belgrade in the early morning hours of Sunday, April 6, 1941 as two roguish bon vivants Blacky and Marko head home following a night of hard drinking. Serenaded by a brass orchestra, they shout salutes to Marko’s brother Ivan, an lame stutterer who keeps animals at the city’s zoo. The pair arrive at Blacky’s house, where they meet his pregnant wife Vera, and announce that they have joined the Communist Party. The next morning, Nazi bombs begin falling on Belgrade. Ivan is grief-stricken by the deaths of most of his animals, but Marko and Blacky seem unfazed. After the Wehrmacht occupies the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, the pair begins stealing German weapons and valuables along with other communist activists. Rather than donate the goods to the Partisans, however, most activists use the racket for personal gain. Blacky occasionally visits his mistress Natalija, a spoiled actress who is also being wooed by Franz, a Nazi officer. When Nazi radio bulletins announce a city-wide search for Blacky and Marko, the pair flee to a hidden cellar in Marko’s grandfather’s house along with their friends and family. Upon entering the cellar, Vera gives birth to a son, Jovan, and dies.
The film jumps to 1992, at the height of the Yugoslav wars. Blacky is an embittered yet patriotic warlord who is still searching for his son. Marko, now crippled, continues his relationship with Natalija as well as his work in the arms trade. Blacky’s men capture Marko and Natalija during an arms deal, and he orders their execution as war profiteers before learning their identity. Ultimately, both Blacky and Ivan commit suicide. In a surreal ending, all of Blacky and Marko’s friends and family are reunited at Jovanâ€™s wedding. Ivan, without stuttering, ends the film with a closing monologue, saying that the united Yugoslavia will be remembered as a golden age: “Once upon a time, there was a country.”