on June 18, 2004
A satire not only on the Balkan war, but also on human frailties and the follies of human institutions as a whole: Once the dark side of human nature is triggered, destruction is a River of No Return.
Where does truth lie: with those holding the gun wielding power? Was the United Nations, vested with the greatest power in this matter, in fact taking side by literaly taking no side? Wasn't the Commander General of the UN army (a British) who wouldn't like to get involved, wise after all: Wasn't the result much the same despite all the efforts? Were the media, exposing the inertia of UN army, doing anybody any service other than themselves? Was the French troop necessarily more helpful by being warm hearted than the British? If so, where did it lead us to?
The film is more like a play than a movie, but we don't need much settings anyway. There is bloodshed but never too bloody, only sadness and definitely not a boredom. You can easily finish it, so to speak, within one breath. However, note that the photos on the box of the DVD are not equally attractive. It may even be misleading at least until you have finished watching the film.
on July 22, 2003
Perhaps this is out of line but from a Western point of view Muslims persecute those who are of a Western background. As this movie shows and as anyone who is relatively informed of world events knows, Muslims are also persecuted. This movie takes the viewer, in a modern day Catch-22, into the heart of the conflict: individuals.
The movie is strangely lacking in sensationalism. It presents situations and the slow unfolding of the situation. It is the subtlety of the characters' interaction with one another that allows the drama to unfold. The drama begins with human beings and human beings reveal why it is that war is so complex. In the trench in which the movie unfolds, the human element begins to surface. We feel a connection with all of the characters and while we may not understand we begin to feel.
The Serbian and the Bosnian, bitter enemies, find connection on a human plane. One of the Frenchmen working for the 'neutral' United Nation's peacekeeping force shows his human side when he tires of playing passive observing, revealing that not to choose sides is to choose sides. The British television journalist shows her human side when she begins to understand the fine line between good journalism and exploitation. Even the man sitting on the mine shows just how human all of this is. All these elements merge in the trench.
While I watched it in subtitles it became obvious that the language differences revealed just how complicated human interaction can be. Something as seemingly simple as failure to communicate can not only be bridged by tragedy but how failure to communicate can lead to tragedy as well.
From a Western point of view, the world is pretty much black and white, good guys and bad guys, win or lose, right or wrong. This movie slowly reveals, with the 'Western' mode of thought shown as complicating rather than helping, the absurdity of war. There are no easy answers, war is never so cut and dry as we seem to sometimes think.
There are no clear answers, we can never really know or understand what happens to men during warfare and we are ultimately all just human beings in the end with all our complications. War is complicated. So are we. This movie unfolds the complication from a very human point of view that shuns Hollywood's antics. And it does so brilliantly.
The movie has lingered with me in a way few movies have.
on November 19, 2002
This superb little film has justly been extolled as a vivid look at the agony and futility of the Bosnian war. Told with dark humor, and with an unforgettable central metaphor illustrating the paralysis of action when faced with an insolvable dilemma, this film is realistic while delineating the aburdity of it all.
We get the two former neighbors that knew the same girl, and by any measure should be friends, unable to keep peace amongst themselves long enough to allow a third man in a terrible predicament to be saved. We have French UN peacekeepers frustrated because they can't keep any kind of peace. We have UN commanders doing anything they can to avoid an action or a decision. We have media anxious to get the story and we have everyone lieing to everyone else. And in the middle of it all we have one poor...with the worst luck imagineable.
The random unfairness of war is what we have, drawn in swift and sure strokes by someone who (I would imagine) has seen it all first hand. Told impartially, there are no heroes here, there are no sides taken, and we are left in the end with the a last and final haunting image that is nothing but pure futility. No move is a good move, no action is a right action, and the absurdity of the situation is only surpassed by its tragic & cruel irony.
Tough and true reporting from the frontlines. Well worthwhile.
on May 22, 2002
Usually movies that are morally ambiguous do not appeal to me. Happy endings and clear cut morals are the reasons I watch movies.
In No Man's Land, however, the moral is that there are no morals and we should not rush to make moral distinctions. The movie is a critique of the foreign policy of NATO/U.S. based on a single incident.
Two Bosnians are trapped between Serb-Bosnian lines while on a patrol in heavy fogg. One is grieviously wounded (and presumed dead) and when two Serbs show up the unwounded Bosnian hides while the Serbs booby-trap the wounded man with a landmine. The remaining Bosnian kills one Serb and wounds the other.
Predictably, the Bosnian and the Serb trade accusations over who started the war and the answer invariably lies with the disarmed soldier. Alternately, they are bitter enemies and reluctant adversaries.
When a do-gooding French Sergeant comes to the rescue, he learns that the answer to ending the conflict between the two men is not as simple as he initially believed.
The allegory is that when the great powers intervene, they must recognize the intractability of ethnic conflict and that the moral high ground generally lies with whomever can say: "Because I have the gun."
on March 18, 2004
"No Man's Land," starring Branko Djuric as Ciki (pronounced Tcheeky) and Rene Bitorajac as Nino shows the pragmatics of war. These two men represent each side of the Serbian-Bosnian conflict.
Both are convinced that the other side started it, and later, both are convinced the other side is bombing them directly. Both learn of the injustices done in the name of war done by their own side.
The tension of the story is not the war, but the survival of three men, Ciki, Nino, and Cera (pronounced Tsera, played by Filip Sovagovic).
Ciki, a Bosnian, and Nino, a Serb, end up in a foxhole. Neither wants to be there, and both need the other to get out alive. They don't care about the other, even as they find some common ground like a former lover they each had. The war and its wage of death is the vault between them truly acknowledging the other's humanity, but they lean on each other awkwardly, but effectively to persuade the UN to save them, and Cera, also a Bosnian.
The trouble is that Cera lays upon a mine that will detonate when he moves. Naturally, then, he stays still. The fear of the mine blowing up provides the need for them to work toward a solution. With no obvious fix, they attract the UN, who are a mix of competent and incompetent, passive and intentional leaders. The UN's indecisiveness jeopardizes the soldiers, and their philosophical unwillingness to resolve the problem only exacerbates the anger between the soldiers.
It carefully stands away from the divisive, bitter fight, indicating that the both sides aren't pure in motivation. Each character is so far removed from whatever started the conflict, that any ending becomes a tragedy.
There are two sides to any war: those who are governing it, and those who are fighting in it. Within that war, among those fighting in it, are two more sides: those who believe in the fight, and those conscripted to be there. All are part of this movie.
"No Man's Land" shows that the Big Muddy, as Pete Seeger once sang of WWII, is not just in 1942 or Vietnam. In the trenches, as a force of war's reality, evil occurs. It is the default of war that men are asked to kill, and it is the default of man that the living will die.
I fully recommend "No Man's Land." For a look at a similarly powerful movie about the Irish conflict, see Daniel Day-Lewis and Emma Thompson in 1994's "In the Name of the Father."
on December 25, 2003
Shot in a sort of "reality TV" way, the movie takes you through what seems to be a simple enough situation - 3 men caught in the dividing line between 2 warring sides and need people to rescue them. The ensuing chaos and confusion results, after the UN had to be called in to resolve this issue... one of the men had been laid onto a booby trap which will detonate if he moves, which complicates things even further. The news reporters representing the big news networks around the world are portrayed as anything but angels, so are the UN peacekeepers who are supposedly stationed there to keep peace. There aren't special effects in this movie, a number of shoot-them-up scenes but witty dialogue, a great script and convincing acting dominated the whole movie. It may not be as politically correct as some people would have preferred, but it is a valid perspective anyway, depending on whose side you're with. This movie is based on the real-life Balkan war that happened not so long ago. The length of the movie (it seemed to have taken almost 2.5 or 3 hours to watch) is probably why I took off a star for this review.... a storyline as this, although supported by great dialogue and acting, shouldn't have taken so long to finish... Still, it was funny, entertaining, and serious at the same time. Definitely worth watching!
on November 29, 2003
"No Man's Land" is a triumphant and dark satire with raw power that is both undeniable and mesmerizing. And that says a lot, being that I'm not the biggest fan of foreign films. The film is funny and tragic at the same time. Very rarely can you come across a decent movie that can successfully combine drama with comedy, let alone finding one that is superb. "No Man's Land" is indeed superb on all levels.
The film takes place during the horrific Bosnian-Serb conflict. In a strange turn-of-events, a Bosnian soldier ends up being trapped with a Serbian soldier in a trench (a wounded comrade of the Bosnian soldier is also in the trench). Both the Bosnian and Serbian sides refuse to help the two, so it's up to the UN to try to come up with a reasonable solution. Now, that would sound like a great idea, except the UN is portrayed as being extremely lazy and incompetent. While in the trench, the two armed soldiers have nothing to do but to wait for help... that is, if they don't kill each other first.
This is a unique film that is fresh and daring. Not a single boring minute went by during my whole viewing of the movie. It's tragic, and yet comical. The movie is able to work on every emotion, which is something that is very hard for a film to do successfully. While it is indeed a satire, the film does a good job of setting up the stage for the Bosnian-Serb conflict and gives us an idea of what was happening during that time. It's a film that will make you want to learn more about the conflict, which is something I highly recommend. After you read more about it, then watch the movie again and I guarantee you that you'll enjoy it a lot more the second time around.
The DVD is pretty standard, offering very little special features. The picture quality is crystal clear and the sound is great. The movie offers English, French and Spanish subtitles. Don't let the subtitles scare you, as they are extremely easy to read and follow. It's also easy to tell what's going on without reading too much into it. The only special feature available, aside from the subtitles, is the original theatrical trailer.
"No Man's Land" is an unforgettable experience that portrays a dark time in history. It is comical and sad at the same time. For somebody who isn't the biggest fan of foreign films, I must admit that I loved this movie. An interesting viewing, if you ask me.
on September 21, 2003
I couldn't help but love this movie. The writing is amazing, the acting is top-notch, and the story is simple and moving. I was compelled by every moment of this movie.
This aside, there are no flaws in this movie. It is perfectly done. The acting, as I said, is amazing. You even forget that the actors aren't speaking English throughout most of the movie. Particularly good was the Bosnian soldier sitting on a mine. He knows that if he moves, he's dead. He knows they can't defuse the mine. He's dead, he knows it, and it shows. It would be really easy to overplay or underplay this part, but the actor (I can't recall his name) does it perfectly. He doesn't wail about "woe is me" as you'd suspect. He takes it like a man when others are around, his only comment being "Why is this happening to me?" Yet, when the others aren't looking, there's a particularly powerful scene in which he silently cries to himself.
Another notable part is the French Sergeant. He's the crusader; he's sick of sitting around doing nothing. Yet, even by doing something he ultimately does nothing. Brilliant.
I would highly recommend this movie to any who want a real perspective on the Bosnian war, or the futility of war in general. I would give it six stars if I could.
on July 31, 2003
I can tell you that this movie, more than anything else I have seen, captures the banal stupidity, bureaucracy, inadequacy and futility of UNPROFOR to a degree approaching the actual circumstances. It is a brilliant movie, well deserving the awards it earned. To me, its strength is its accuracy to the conditions at the time. Everything in this movie, no matter how silly or how stereotypical, is perfectly believeable. It really shows just how impossible the whole business was at the time. The French sergeant is not just some character--I have known many men essentially identical to him--and he shows the really decent and human side of the poor souls who are sent into missions such as these. As an aside, I was pleased to see a Frenchman in a sympathetic role; this is also in keeping with my own experience in Bosnia and elsewhere.
I am pleased and impressed that the film does not portray the Serbs and Bosniacs as bad-guys or good-guys based on nationality. It correctly portrays individuals, with both Armiies essentially operating in a similar way. The Croats are not mentioned in this story, but on the individual level it would be similar.
Bottom line is that this is the best dramatic film I have seen on the subject of UNPROFOR. Please know that the truth was actually even worse. This is not meant as a criticism of the individual soldiers, of all nationalities who served with UNPROFOR. It is meant as a criticism of the terms of reference for the mission. These were a disgrace to the civilised world, and I am glad that IFOR was able to make amends for it, at least with respect to those poor souls in BiH who were still alive when we took over from UNPROFOR.
The total failure of the West to solve the movie's central dramatic problem of the Bosniac soldier on the mine seems to me a metaphor for the strategic failure of UNPROFOR. It took IFOR (NATO) to end this war for good. And this is why every Bosniac (and even many Serbs) I talk with are keen to keep the present SFOR in Bosnia for the foreseeable future.
on July 25, 2003
This movie was interesting, and very well done. I wouldn't consider it a masterpiece, but definately worth watching. A lot of reviewers are praising the dialogue, which I did not find to be extraordinary; I thought the physical acting of the characters, the little touches, was what made them seem so real. Some moments the characters seemed very natural as if we were watching a real event, like Marchand and his soldiers running around trying to help, while others seemed stiff and posed like Jane and Col. Soft. So the film seemed to be alternating between a staged event and a very realistic scene of confusion. I found this jarring, but maybe that's just me.
The basic story is that a Bosnian and a Croat accidently get stuck in a trench together, along with the "body" of the Bosnian's- Ciki - friend Cera, which the Serb's - Nino - partner has placed a mine under so that when the weight is removed the thing explodes. Cera wasn't dead, just unconscious and so all three are in need of help, which eventually leads the French "smurfs" (for their blue helmets) to try and get them some help. The UN high command is reluctant to let them try to help because the mission would endanger the lives of these UN soldiers. The French Sergeant meets up with a reporter and they invent a little scheme (with cute "flirting") to use the media to force the UN high command to let him do something or else make the UN look terrible.
I found the scenes in the trench to be boring and stiff. I liked Nino, who was reasonable until provoked, but I couldn't stand Ciki. He was hostile to everyone from Nino to the French soldier who offered him bandages for his wound, and just made everything more difficult. As I saw it, the whole situation was his fault anyway, as while he was listening to the old Serb explain the mine to Nino he had plenty of oppurtunity to shoot. No where in the film was that acknowledged. It's convenient to blame the UN or the US for your problems and we get so caught up in that we tend to wash away responsibility from the aggressing party.
There are two characters who really carry the story, Cera and Marchand, and I liked that both were equally helpless in the end and that both were the most rational of the cast. I liked that the director distinguished between the UNPROFOR troops and the high command. They were French here but they could have been any nationality but were decent and courageous in their way, even if you pity poor Michel in trench with them. The UN command could have been any nationality as well, the Americans in Somalia for example, but the whole idea of foreign intervention seems ridiculous because, well, as outsiders what *can* they do without upsetting someone and sparking hostilities? I think the movie showed the two options at the end, using force and doing nothing, and neither did any good. The only way any lives could have been saved is if Ciki would have been more cooperative.
Overall, I liked the movie and wish there were more films about Bosnia.