No Man's Land

No Man's Land


Reviewed by: Gator MacReady

If you are a veteran cinemagoer, the genre of the East European war movie brings to mind pale, unshaven, craggy, muddy-faced soldiers in an apocalyptic setting, such as a town that's depressing even before it's blown to pieces.

Such movies are a dime a dozen these days and this is definitely the type I was expecting. How surprised I was to discover that not only is the film beautiful to look at, but also has some good characters to distract us from the lack of action in certain scenes.

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Tchiki (Branko Djuric) is a Bosnian soldier, whose entire unit is killed in a surprise attack when they stray off course on the way back to base. An explosion sends him flying into a trench, located about a mile between the borders of both sides. The trench is in No Man's Land and this is where he stays for most of the movie, after killing and wounding two Serbian soldiers, ordered to investigate.

But his friend, Cera, is still alive. The Serbs thought he was dead and placed a bouncer mine - the real nasty kind - underneath him, as an ambush. Tchiki cannot leave the trench for many reasons. The Serbs will fire at him, his own side might not recognise him, he can't leave Cera and he is half holding captive Nino, the Serb, whom he has wounded.

After a bizarre display of truce calling, the press hook onto the story and UN troops are called in to help. The dialogue between Tchiki and Nino, mainly about who's to blame for the war, may be nothing new, or special, but it is efficient and satisfying enough to be engaging and we really feel for both men, while simultaneously being able to take sides, leaving us... in No Man's Land.

The scenes of the media and Simon Callow, as a callous UN General, called Soft, are quite ordinary, redeemed, however, by the French UN officer, who struggles to keep the Serbs and Bosnians at bay, while attempting to find a solution, even though very few people speak French, or English. And Jane, the CNN style reporter, cares mostly about telling the awful truth, than trying to make it better.

The media almost exposes the UN's incompetence and indifference to the situation, but never enough to be satisfying. In the end, no one cares for Cera, who is lying on his back with a mine under him.

The film's sound design is also noteworthy. Explosions and gunfire assault us at totally unexpected moments, making me grateful, at least, that I'm not ever going to war, no matter how many birds are chirping happily in the surround channels.

I recommend this movie for many reasons. If you thought Bosnia was a frozen, miserable dump, then the green and sunny valley of No Man's Land will surely open your eyes.

Reviewed on: 24 Aug 2001
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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:

Angus Wolfe Murray ****1/2

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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