No Man's Land

No Man's Land


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

The conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina demonstrates the turvy-topsiness of modern civil warfare, in which the UN acts as referee, having no mandate to stop massacres, or influence the outcome, while repairing collateral damage to keep the killing fields level.

Danis Tanovic's debut, which beat Amelie to become Best Foreign Film at the 2002 Oscars, concentrates these elements into a single trench in a field between opposing front lines, where a Bosnian soldier finds himself trapped and a nervous Serb recruit is sent to investigate.

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Commentators and historians never fail to point out that before nationalists enflamed passions of hatred, Yugoslavs lived happily and peacefully side by side.

Here, in the trench, Ciki (Branko Djuric) discovers that Nino (Rene Bitorajac) went to school with one of his ex-girlfriends. Could this be the moment when the two men discover a bond of humanity? If this was Hollywood, the answer would be, "Definito, mon brave!" But, it's not.

Tanovic's script is satirical in its approach to the United Nations and the arrogant ignorance of the international press, except you can't be sure, because the situation on the ground is like something out of a Lewis Carroll nightmare.

The French sergeant (Georges Siatidis), in charge of an armoured vehicle in the area, is frustrated by his inability to do anything to help. His superiors at UNPROFOR are more concerned with the public relations aspect and top blue beret in Sarajevo (Simon Callow) ensures that when it comes to photo ops, he is right there assuming control. At the same time, Jane Livingstone (Katrin Cartlidge), a CNN-style war correspondent, whose desire to break every news story first consumes her, has lost the ability to operate on any human level.

This is a film about agendas, who has them and how best to market them. The soldiers at the centre are all but forgotten in this scramble to avoid eggy faces. In fact, there are two scenarios running simultaneously, the Bosnian and the Serb in the trench and the UN's attempt at not looking ridiculous. Both have their moments of farce, as well as tragedy.

If war is chaos, it's also absurd. Tanovic captures both in a film of astonishing maturity and compassion.

Reviewed on: 15 May 2002
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Black comedy about the Bosnian conflict told from the viewpoint of a trench between warring factions.
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Read more No Man's Land reviews:

Gator MacReady ****

Director: Danis Tanovic

Writer: Danis Tanovic

Starring: Branko Djuric, Rene Bitorajac, Filip Sovagovic, Georges Siatidis, Simon Callow, Katrin Cartlidge

Year: 2001

Runtime: 98 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Belgium/Bosnia/France/Italy/Slovenia/UK


EIFF 2001
SSFF 2014

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