The Day That Shook the World (1975): Gavrilo Princip in Film

By Carl Savich  |  The Day That Shook the World, or Sarajevski atentat, The Sarajevo Assassination, was a film dramatization of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo released in 1975. The film was a co-production between Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, West Germany, and Hungary. The director and co-writer was Veljko Bulajic.

The cast included Canadian-born actor Christopher Plummer as Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Brazilian-born actress Florinda Bolkan as Countess Sophie, Austrian-born actor Maximilian Schell as Djuro Sarac, Bosnian-born actor Irfan Mensur as Gavrilo Princip, Serbian actor Rados Bajic as Nedeljko Cabrinovic, Czech actor Jan Hrusínský as Trifko Grabez, Branko Djuric as Danilo Ilic, Czech actor Ivan Vyskocil as Muhamed Mehmedbasic, Libuse Safránková as Jelena, Otomar Korbelár as Emperor Franz Joseph, Wilhelm Koch-Hooge as Franz Conrad, Jirí Holý as Merizzi, Nelly Gaierová as Countess Langus, and Jirí Kodet as Morsley.

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1977 U.S. theatrical release poster by American International Pictures.

The screenplay was written by Vladimír Bor, Stevan Bulajic, Veljko Bulajic, and American Paul Jarrico, an American producer and screenwriter who was labeled in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s as “subversive” because of his Communist affiliations by the U.S. House Committee on Un-American Activities and blacklisted.

The production companies on the film were Filmové Studio Barrandov, Jadran Film in Zagreb, Kinema Sarajevo, and Mundo Film. The film was released on October 31, 1975 in Yugoslavia. American International Pictures (AIP) released the film in 1977 in a theatrical release in the U.S. in a English language dubbed version. The film was also released in Czechoslovakia in Czechoslovak as Sarajevský atentát and Atentat u Sarajevu, in West Germany as Der Tag, der die Welt veränderte, in France, Greece, Venezuela, Hungary, Italy, Poland, East Germany, Portugal, Columbia, and in a world-wide version in English as The Assassination in Sarajevo. The film was released in Serbo-Croatian, Czech, German, and English.

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U.S. lobby card for the 1977 release of the film in English featuring Jan Hrusínský as Trifko Grabez, Maximilian Schell as Djuro Sarac, and Irfan Mensur as Gavrilo Princip.

The movie depicts the events leading up to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914 in Sarajevo. The focus of the film is the visit of Ferdinand and Sophie to Sarajevo and the planning and execution of the assassination plot.

The film begins with archival images of the 1878 Treaty of Berlin showing German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck shaking hands with Russian envoy Pyotr Andreyevich Shuvalov in a black and white reproduction of the painting by Anton von Werner. This agreement set the stage for the events in the film. Following the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78, it was agreed in Berlin that Austria-Hungary was to administer the territory of Bosnia-Hercegovina. Ottoman Turkey, however, would retain sovereignty.

The subsequent Austro-Hungarian occupation is detailed in images. Austrian soldiers are shown beside a row of gallows. Austro-Hungarian soldiers are shown standing beside the body of a hanged man on a gallows. Through force, Austria was able to occupy the region and suppress the revolts and rebellions. The opposition to Austro-Hungarian rule is shown in newspaper accounts of assassination attempts.

The assassination attempt in 1912 by Bosnian Croat Luka Jukic against ban Slavko Cuvaj is shown in a newspaper headline. Cuvaj had dissolved the Sabor or parliament, had impounded newspapers, and had restricted the right of assembly. Several months after, Ivan Planinscak attempted to assassinate Cuvaj, committing suicide after the attempt failed.

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A photograph of Bosnian Serb Bogdan Zerajic from the opening sequence of the film The Day That Shook the World.

The attempted assassination of the Austrian Governor of Bosnia General Marijan Varesanin on June 15, 1910 by Bosnian Serb Bodgan Zerajic is shown along with a photo showing Zerajic’s body lying on the street after his suicide. The opening sequences emphasized the turbulent and unstable period leading up to the 1914 assassination. Moreover, the film makes the point that Austrian rule was opposed not only by Serbs, but also by Croats.

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Bosnian actor Irfan Mensur as Gavrilo Princip in The Day That Shook the World.

The film opens with Gavrilo Princip, Nedeljko Cabrinovic, and Trifko Grabez, at target practice with a large poster featuring Franz Ferdinand on a rocky mountainside in Serbia. They are supervised and instructed by Djuro Sarac, played by Maximilian Schell, who is bearded an wearing a cap. They fire revolvers at the target. The target is shown with bullet holes as they shoot at it. A bomb is also lobbed at the photograph target to test it.

In the next scene, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, who was an avid hunter and sportsman, is shown on a hunting expedition. He is shown with other men and two women as they shoot pheasants, pigeons and are shown hunting deer and wild boar. A deer is shown struggling to stay on its feet as it is hit. Boars are shown dying as they are hit.

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Serbian actor Rados Bajic as Nedeljko Cabrinovic in The Day That Shook the World.

“1914 Europe was dominated by five countries: Great Britain, France, the German Empire, Russia and Austria-Hungary. Bosnia was a province of Austria-Hungary recently annexed from Turkey. Adjoining Bosnia was the independent kingdom of Serbia whose capital was Belgrade. Franz Joseph has been emperor of Austria-Hungary for 66 years. His successor to be was his nephew the Archduke Franz Ferdinand.”

Baron Franz Conrad von Hoetzendorf, the chief of staff of the Austro-Hungarian general staff, reads a proposal to the Emperor Franz Joseph. Serbia is accused of being the sponsor and instigator of hostile action and activities against Austria-Hungary. In Bosnia-Hercegovina, annexed in 1908, Serbia is blamed for sponsoring anti-Austrian plots and activities. These acts are characterized as terrorist acts. He proposes that Austria launch a preemptive attack on Serbia to neutralize the danger and threat. Franz Joseph is aware of this option which has been recommended before. He argues that Russia will attack Austria if Serbia is attacked. Due to the system of alliances in place, the result would be a large-scale war involving the major powers of Europe. Franz Joseph thus opposes any military action against Serbia.

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Christopher Plummer as Archduke Franz Ferdinand in The Day That Shook the World.

Franz Joseph informs Conrad that he is unhappy that his nephew Franz Ferdinand is the successor to the Habsburg throne. Franz Ferdinand prepares to meet him. Franz Joseph states that he has heard that Franz Ferdinand is in poor health and will not be able to attend the military exercises set for Sarajevo that summer. Franz Ferdinand complains about the hot weather in Bosnia and his sensitivity to it. He says that he will go to Sarajevo only if his wife Sophie can accompany him on the trip. Franz Joseph becomes agitated at the suggestion. He was opposed to the marriage because she came from a lower social class. Franz Joseph allowed a morganatic wedding, She would not acquire a full royal title and could not travel in an official capacity. Moreover, their offspring could not inherit the throne. There was also opposition because she was Slavic. Sophie was Czech. She was the fourth daughter of Count Bohuslaw Chotek von Chotkow und Wognin and Countess Wilhelmine Kinsky von Wchinitz und Tettau. The marriage created a rift because it was perceived as empowering the Slavic populations in the country with the possible creation of a third, Slavic component to the dual monarchy, known as “trialism”. The country was a dual monarchy with a German and a Hungarian component.

Franz Joseph accuses Franz Ferdinand of making his wife appear more prominent in the country than she is. He states that if the Archduke goes to Sarajevo, Sophie will accompany him only as his wife, and will not be a representative of Austria-Hungary in a political capacity. Moreover, she will not share in the honors which he will receive there.

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Florinda Bolkan as Duchess Sophie in The Day That Shook the World.

Djuro Sarac brings guns and bombs for the three assassins, Gavrilo, Nedeljko, and Trifko, who are boarding together in the same house. He explains to them that they will have difficulty getting them over the Serbian-Bosnian border. He demonstrates to them how to conceal the weapons. The guns are strapped across their torsos under their clothes.

He maps out the route they will take to Sarajevo. From Belgrade, they will take a boat to the Sabac region in western Serbia. From there, they will board a train that will take them to Zvornik on the Bosnian-Serbian border at the Drina River. In Zvornik, they will be met by a Captain Rade Petrovic who will ensure that they cross the border without being detected. He also advises them not to reveal any information about the plan and to avoid alcohol and fraternizing with women.

Franz Ferdinand is seen speaking to Sophie. He reveals his displeasure with Franz Joseph. He tells Sophie: “He is always trying to humiliate you.” She relents to go on the trip in a non-official capacity. Franz Ferdinand, however, is dissatisfied with the conditions that Franz Joseph had imposed which he regards as belittling Sophie’s position.

In the next scene, the three assassins prepare to depart on the trip. They exclaim: “Death to the Austro-Hungarian Empire!” They board the boat, “Masha”, and begin their trek to Sarajevo. They wave farewell to Sarac who sees them off at the dock.

They are then shown in a restaurant or café. Nedeljko Cabrinovic engages in reckless and ostentatious behavior. He sings and plays the guitar with the band. He starts up a conversation with a waitress and drinks alcohol. He also reveals that they are going to Sarajevo to assassinate Franz Ferdinand. Gavrilo and Trifko are taken aback and are nonplussed at his reckless and irresponsible behavior. He explains that he was only joking.

Gavrilo Princip, the most serious and determined of the three, tells him: “What kind of an idiot are you?” He says that Nedeljko’s behavior is endangering them and the mission. As a result, they inform him that he is not to accompany them as they cross the border into Bosnia. His weapons are taken and he is told to cross separately. He is to meet up with them in Tuzla.

Marching bands are shown performing at a bridge across a river separating Bosnia from Serbia. The first band is an Austro-Hungarian band in blue uniforms. The second band is Serbian. Both bands play at the same time attempting to play as loud as possible to drown out the other. There is a battle of the bands that presages the battle of armies.

Princip and Trifko cross the river in the small boat and then are guided through the marsh by Jakov Milovic. They cross the mountains and are able to travel in a horse-drawn cart. Mounted Austrian police stop them. They are able to escape to a nearby house in the village.

They meet with the merchant Misko Jovanovic in Tuzla. He is supposed to take the weapons to Sarajevo. He tells them, however, that it is too risky. They will instead have a person come back for the weapons after they arrive in Sarajevo.

They also meet up again with Nedeljko. He continues to act recklessly. He sings a song to a woman passenger on the train. Officials enter who are checking papers. One official is suspicious when examining Gavrilo’s and Trifko’s papers. Nedeljko tells the woman that to save their lives she has to act. He devises a diversion.

She confronts Gavrilo who she slaps in the face. She accuses him of breaking their agreements. She asks the officials to arrest him. The official tells her that he cannot do anything about that. He is convinced that they are legitimate travelers. The ruse works.

Ferdinand and Sophie say goodbye to their children who are with their tutor. They leave by automobile.

The next scene shows a Bosnian Muslim muezzin on the minaret of a mosque calling worshippers to prayer. The next scene is of a Serbian Orthodox Church with tolling bells. The third scene is of a Croatian Roman Catholic Church also with its bells tolling. This is an effective sequence showing the side-by-side presence in Sarajevo of three major religions, representing the three national groups in the country.

As the steam train enters Sarajevo, the train station is shown with Austro-Hungarian guards in blue uniforms. Police officers in helmets can also be seen. The three assassins disembark from the train as other passengers pass their luggage out of open windows. An Austrian guard shouts to the passengers: “Get out, you Bosnian swine!” Nedeljko and Trifko say goodbye to the woman. He tells her that Trifko’s father is a Serbian Orthodox priest.

Gavrilo Princip meets with Danilo Ilic in a cemetery, his contact in Sarajevo. Ilic informs him that he has recruited three others who will participate in the assassination attempt. Ilic also voices his doubts and misgivings about the assassination to Princip.

Princip is taken aback and surprised by this reaction. He explains to Ilic that the assassination will trigger a revolution. It will be a spark for the coming conflagration. The assassination will result in freedom for Bosnia and Hercegovina, an end to the occupation. “Za sloboda!” “For freedom!” Ilic remains skeptical.

In the next scene, the sojourn to Bosnia of Franz Ferdinand and Sophie, who travel separately, is detailed. Franz Ferdinand begins his journey in Vienna, then travels to Budapest, to Trieste on the Adriatic, and finally to Mostar before reaching his destination of Sarajevo.

In Sarajevo, Franz Ferdinand arrives by motorcade and is reunited with Sophie. They are shown in a bedroom of a hotel. They stayed in Ilidza, a suburb west of Sarajevo. She is uneasy and filled with trepidation and anxious apprehension. She has misgivings and a foreboding of death. She suggests that they stay indoors. Ferdinand, by contrasts, is enthusiastic and states that they should go outside and tour the city.

Workers are shown putting up posters of the Archduke with a map of the route the party is to take in the city at the bottom. The poster has the words “Dobro nam dosao”, “Welcome”, at the top. Gavrilo and Trifko are shown walking in front of Moritz Schiller’s delicatessen with the word “Croatia” on the outside wall. Workers are seen cleaning the streets and putting up Austrian flags and banners along the route.

They see Nedeljko and Muhamed Mehmedbasic, a Bosnian Muslim conspirator, eating and talking in a café and join them. Mehmedbasic is wearing a red fez.

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Jelena, Gavrilo Princip’s girlfriend, enters the cafe. Princip recognizes her and immediately sneaks out with Nedeljko and Trifko. Jelena, perplexed, watches from the door as they leave. She goes back to the table in the cafe where only Muhamed remains. She asks him if Gavro was trying to avoid her. When did he arrive in Sarajevo? He tells her that Gavrilo, Nedeljko and Trifko are all in danger because they are in Bosnia illegally. She requests that he reveal the details.

Franz Ferdinand and Sophie are seen being chauffeured in a car as they drive down a commercial street in Sarajevo. They enter a rug store, Kabiljov Ducan, Kabilj’s Store, as a large group of city residents greet and wave at them. Ferdinand shakes hand with one onlooker as both he and Sophie wave at the crowds. The woman from the train who saved Gavrilo and Trifko from possible arrest is seen in the crowd. Sophie examines the rugs and decides to purchase one.

Gavrilo, Nedeljko, Trifko, and Mehmedbasic are attracted by the commotion and bustle of the crowds and go to the scene in front of the store. As Ferdinand and Sophie enter their car to leave, Sophie makes eye contact with Nedeljko, who is smiling in a white hat on the street corner. The expression on her face is one of apprehension. Gavrilo gazes on Ferdinand as he enters the car, smiling at the crowd.

As the couple drives off, Nedeljko lashes out at the others in frustration. They do not have their weapons and bombs, which are in Tuzla. He tells them that they could have killed Ferdinand and Sophie at the store when they were up close.

In the next scene, Djuro Sarac is shown entering his darkened apartment room as a soldier and two men in civilian clothes are searching the room. He draws his gun. The man tells him that they are from Apis, the head of Serbian Military Intelligence and the leader of Ujedinjenje ili smrt, Union or Death, known as The Black Hand. Sarac turns around and sees that a soldier has a rifle with a bayonet pointed at him. He surrenders his gun and exits the room with the other men.

Apis tells Sarac to abort the assassination. Sarac is puzzled and does not understand why. He has opposed the Austrian Habsburg Empire all of his life. He is told that the Prime Minister of Serbia, Nikola Pasic, does not want to be drawn into a war with Austria-Hungary. Sarac replies that they do not seek a war. They plan to assassinate Ferdinand to prevent a war that Austria-Hungary is planning against Serbia. That is the objective of the assassination. Apis responds that the assassination would give Austria-Hungary an excuse or pretext to launch a war against Serbia. Serbia is unprepared for another war. Sarac rejects the mission to halt the assassination. He explains that there is no need for it.

Ferdinand is seen at the military exercises in Sarajevo conducted by Austro-Hungarian troops as infantry fire machine guns and advance over the hillside and attack the trenches. Austrian troops are shown firing canons in the background on the hills overlooking the city of Sarajevo. Franz Ferdinand exclaims:  “Excellent!  Excellent!” Baron Franz Conrad walks up to Ferdinand and informs him that Austro-Hungarian troops could easily advance into Serbia and Montenegro. Ferdinand replies that if they do, Russia would attack Austria-Hungary. Ferdinand observes the climax of the maneuver as Austrian troops raise the Austrian flag on the hill after successfully taking it.

In the next scene, using the newspaper map, Danilo Ilic assigns the positions that each person will take along the route. The names of Mehmedbasic, Nedeljko, Trifko, and Gavrilo are written on the locations on the map where they will be posted. Gavrilo will be posted at the Latin Bridge by Schiller’s delicatessen. Nedlejko asks Ilic about the others involved in the plot. Ilic replies that they do not need this information.

The landlady enters the room and informs Danilo that a well-dressed man is outside waiting to see them. The group panics and starts to hide any papers and books that are lying in the room. Princip takes a gun and goes to confront the man. He discovers that it is Sarac. He tells them to stop the assassination. He has spoken personally with Apis. All their plans are known.

Princip replies that the decision is one that they will make. Sarac tells him that the Serbian government has knowledge of the plot and opposes it. The plot would endanger many lives. Danilo is in agreement with Sarac. Princip leaves the decision for the others to make whether they will continue or whether they will abort the mission. His mind, however, is made up. He will go ahead with the assassination. He tells them: “Come tomorrow, I’m going to kill Ferdinand.”

Princip storms out of the room in disgust and anger. Sarac runs after him but cannot find him. Sarac informs the others to find Princip and to convince him to abort the assassination attempt.

Sarac sees Princip on the street and runs after him. He is stopped by the police who ask that he reveal his identity. He tells them he is a teacher. He then breaks from them and flees. After a pursuit, he is finally captured and taken into custody.

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The next scene opens with “The Emperor Waltz” by Johann Strauss II playing in the background as Ferdinand and Sophie attend a state dinner. Ferdinand gets up to make a speech to the assembled group which includes Conrad. He informs them that he will write to Franz Joseph to tell him that the military exercises in Sarajevo were a success. They applaud and make a toast.

In the next scene, Princip enters a cafe where a speaker recounts the Luka Jukic assassination attempt on Slavko Cuvaj and who extols suicide to achieve the freedom of Bosnia. Outside, residents are seen defacing the posters of Ferdinand. The scene is effective in showing the anti-Habsburg climate in the city.

The Austrian police have Sarac in a prison cell where he is being interrogated. After refusing to cooperate, he is tortured. He is whipped across the abdomen and back. He is taken to the interrogator. The interrogator tells him that every man can be broken. They want him to reveal his identity and who his accomplices are. The interrogator has the skull of Bogdan Zerajic on his desk which he points to. Sarac disdainfully spits in his face. He is ordered back to his cell to be whipped.

Princip goes to the Sarajevo cemetery at night where he stands before the grave of Bogdan Zerajic. The grave is decorated with flowers and candles. Jelena finds Princip and runs to him. She tells him that she knows that he is hiding from the police. Two policemen are heard approaching them and they both flee the cemetery. The police stomp out the candles that have been placed on Zerajic’s grave.

In the next scene, Princip and Jelena are lying on a bed. She castigates him for not sending her a letter while he was away. He replies that it was too dangerous to do so. They embrace and kiss.

The interrogator rails at Sarac to reveal the names of his accomplices. Sarac lies on his back with his forehead bloodied after the torture. A close-up of his eye shows that he has died.

Nedeljko, Trifko, Ilic, and Mehmedbasic cannot find Princip. They decide to go ahead with the assassination. They do not want to burden Princip with carrying out the assassination on his own.

Jelena tearfully pleads with Princip not to go through with the assassination. He tells her that he must do it. He warns her to stay away from the Appel Quay today. He takes his gun and rushes out of the room. Jelena breaks down and cries.

Nedjelko wears a black tuxedo with a bow-tie to have a photograph taken of himself.

With a band playing, a cortege of four cars departs from the Sarajevo city hall to begin the tour of the city. Ferdinand and Sophie are in the back seat of the second car in the procession with Bosnian Governor Oskar Potiorek in the front with the driver.

Princip is seen along the parade route as he encounters first Mehmedbasic, then Grabez, then Nedeljko, and, finally, Ilic. Danilo Ilic puts a packet of cyanide in Princip’s coat pocket.

With a military band playing, the four cars make their way along the street amidst crowds waving flags and cheering. Ferdinand, Sophie, and Conrad wave to the crowds.

Muhamed Mehmedbasic, who is to make the first assassination attempt, is pushed back by police amidst a crowd away from the street. He is unable to act as the cars pass by.

The cars go past another assassin who fails to act. Nedeljko steps forward and hurls his bomb at the second car. Ferdinand is able to catch the black rectangular soap-shaped bomb and to thrust it onto the street. The bomb explodes in front of the third car. The explosion results in multiple injuries. The second car with Ferdinand and Sophie drives away. Princip tries to keep up with the speeding car but it quickly passes him on the street as he glances ruefully and disappointingly at the departing car.

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Nedjeljko is able to jump in the shallow Miljacka River to get away from the police. The police are able to surround him. He takes the cyanide packet from his left coat pocket, spilling most of it in the murky river. He swallows what remains. He pleads hysterically with the police to shoot him. They hit him over the head and take him into custody. Princip tells Trifko to kill Nedeljko. Trifko, however, is unable to do so.

Ferdinand and Sophie arrive at the town hall. Ferdinand complains to the Mayor of Sarajevo that bombs were thrown at them. He exclaims: “It’s outrageous!” The assembled dignitaries and officials continue with the welcoming ceremony.

Jelena runs into Trifko on the bridge. She asks him to tell her what happened. She asks him if it was Princip?  He tells her that is was Nedeljko. She asks him where Gavro is. She runs hurriedly away to find Princip.

Sophie berates the Governor of Bosnia after the attack. He attempts to persuade her that it was an isolated incident that will not occur again. She responds: “I am not convinced.”

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Ferdinand and Sophie depart again in the car. The driver makes a right turn on the wrong street, in front of Schiller’s delicatessen. He puts the car in reverse in an attempt to back the car up onto the main road. Princip is on the street in front of Schiller’s and takes out his gun as he sees the car slowly back up. Sophie notices Princip as he moves closer along the street. Princip fires before she can react. Ferdinand is struck. Princip then points his gun at Oskar Potiorek in the front seat of the car. A bystander pushes his arm and the bullet hits Sophie instead.

Princip is wrestled to the ground as the gun is dislodged from his hand. He is attacked and beaten by bystanders. His forehead is bloodied. He takes the cyanide packet from his coat pocket but drops it on the street as he is pummeled by the crowd.

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Jelena calls for Princip from the street but is prevented from getting near to him. Security forces drag Princip away to the police station. Danilo Ilic comforts Jelena as they walk away.

Ferdinand and Sophie are mortally wounded in the attack. As they are driven away, first Sophie, then Ferdinand, die from their wounds.

In the final scene, a waiter is shown extinguishing candles at the empty dining room table where Ferdinand and Sophie were to meet after the tour of the city.

“Franz Ferdinand and Sophie died that day June 28, 1914.”

As a postscript, the principal assassins are shown and what happened to them following the assassination.

First, Danilo Ilic was shown with his name and that he was hanged. Next, Trifko Grabez is shown with the description that he died in prison. Misko Jovanovic was sentenced to death by hanging. Jakov Milovic was sentenced to death by hanging. Muhamed Mehmedbasic escaped to Montenegro. Veljko Cubrilovic was sentenced to death by hanging. Nedjeljko Cabrinovic died in prison. Finally, Gavrilo Princip died in prison.

The film ends with a voice-over that describes the events that followed the assassination and why it was “the day that shook the world”: “Austria declared war on Serbia. Russia came to Serbia’s aid. Germany declared war on Russia. France stood by its alliance with Russia. England stood by its alliance with France. The U.S. came in on the side of England. It was the end of Russian Tsarism and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.”

The screenplay is excellent, presenting the accepted historical narrative of events. The writers essentially presented the Yugoslav Communist version of the events leading up to the assassination. The source material was derived from Yugoslav historiography, especially the post-World War II Communist narrative accepted under the Josip Broz Tito regime. Gavrilo Princip and the other assassins were portrayed as “national heroes” of Yugoslavia. This was the official Communist characterization of Gavrilo Princip. Princip had espoused Slavic “unity and brotherhood”, the same agenda as the Communist regime.

The film effectively showed how resistance and opposition to the Habsburg occupation of Bosnia and the other regions of Yugoslavia was widespread. Not only Serbs, but Croats and Bosnian Muslims opposed the occupation.

The film also effectively showed how the assassination was planned and carried out by Bosnians themselves. Although there is debate and controversy about the origins and motives behind the plot, the film presents the assassination as one carried out by Bosnians whose goal was to free Bosnia from foreign occupation.

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Bosnian actor Irfan Mensur gives a low-key and convincing portrayal of Gavrilo Princip. He captures the seriousness and determination of Gavrilo Princip effectively. Rados Bajic gives a convincing portrayal as Nedeljko Cabrinovic as a jovial, carefree, and naïve youth. Christopher Plummer is able to effectively capture the regal and military bearing of Franz Ferdinand. Florinda Bolkan gives a persuasive portrayal as Sophie. Ferdinand and Sophie were older in real life in 1914. Plummer and Bolkan are younger and slimmer.

A drawback of the film is that there is little in the way of character development. The viewer has to read between the lines. The makers of the film also assume that everyone watching the film will know the historical facts behind the assassination cold. For example, there is the assumption that everyone will know of the influence and impact that Bogdan Zerajic had. The assumption is that viewers will know how the roots to the conflict were sewn at the Congress of Berlin in 1878. There are gaps in the narrative that needed to be filled in more fully and thoroughly.

Another glaring omission is an examination of the Mlada Bosna or Young Bosnia Movement. This movement was made up of Bosnian Serbs, Croats, and Muslims. The assassination had its roots in this organization.

The cinematography by Jan Curik was excellent in capturing the characters and the scenery. The images were vivid and clear. The editing by Roger Dwyre was effective, not allowing a scene to drag on. The music was by Juan Carlos Calderón and Lubos Fiser.

The costumes and the scenery were accurate. The scenes were shot on location in Bosnia and in Czechoslovakia.

The historical details are not all accurate. For example, the bomb thrown at the car was not caught by Ferdinand but hit the car itself. The role of Djuro Sarac in the assassination was greatly overemphasized and exaggerated. While he did train the assassins, Milan Ciganovic played a much more crucial role. Ciganovic had been photographed with Princip and Grabez on a bench in Kalamegdan Park in Belgrade before the assassination. Sarac was a student who had organized a section of the Young Bosnia Movement known as “Death or Life”. He was also a veteran of the Balkan Wars of 1912-13. He is depicted as bearded and wearing a cap by Maximilian Schell in the movie.

The movie presents a sympathetic and positive portrayal of Gavrilo Princip. The last image we see of Princip in the film is a poignant shot of him smiling and carefree. The narrative reflects the Yugoslav Communist-era view of Princip as a “national hero”. He is depicted as an idealistic and sincere revolutionary seeking freedom from foreign occupation. This image of Princip is not unanimous. But it is the image of Princip in 1975. This image was endorsed not only by Yugoslavia, but by Czechoslovakia, East and West Germany, and the U.S., which all released their own versions of the film.

History, however, is never static. Each generation recreates the past. The image of Gavrilo Princip is constantly changing and evolving. This film is invaluable in allowing us a glimpse of how Gavrilo Princip was perceived by an earlier generation in a different time.