Wednesday, December 29, 2010

SHOULD I READ IT? "No Man's Land"

     “No Man’s Land” is a Bosnian war movie set in the Bosnian War. Most Americans are not familiar with this terrible war that broke out after the break-up of Yugoslavia. The confict, which raged from 1992-1995, is complicated. Basically, it was a war between the Bosnian Muslims of the newly created Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Bosnian Serbs who were supported by the country of Serbia which had desires for territory in Bosnia. Anyway, before your head starts spinning – you do not need to understand the conflict to enjoy the movie. The story is a universal one of enemies thrust together and forced to coexist. It could have taken place in any war (in movies anyway).

     The movie opens with a squad of Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) getting caught in a fog and wandering close to Serbian lines. They are wiped out in a sudden and graphic rain of violence. One (Ciki) survives, but he is stuck in a trench in no man’s land. The Serbs send out two men to check on the situation. The Bosniak hides in a dugout and kills one of them and wounds the other (Nino). They argue over who is to blame for the war. It is a war that featured ethnic cleansing, mass rapes, and even genocide. Of course, it’s the other side that is evil.

     To make matters more interesting, a companion of Ciki suddenly awakens from the dead. The problem is that Nino’s partner had placed a Bouncing Betty mine under his body earlier as a booby trap and now he cannot move without disastrous results. Ciki and Nino make an uneasy truce. They manage to signal both lines and the U.N. peacekeeping force (called “smurfs” because of their blue helmets) is called in. Before Lt. Marchand and his comrade can rescue the men, they are given an order by the U.N. commander to withdraw immediately. Nino is going to go with Marchand, but Ciki shoots him in the leg to keep him in the trench as insurance against a Serbian attack.

     At this point, the international press in the form of an intrepid female reporter (Jane Livingston) sniffs out the story. She intimidates the U.N. commander into allowing Marchand to go back with her in tow (and the rest of the press – so much for her exclusive!). In a nice and necessary touch, a news report chronicles the war up to this point (an important tutorial for the ignorant American audience). Fearing adverse press coverage, the U.N. now decides to save the men including sending in a bomb disposal expert. They arrive just in time to save Ciki from being knifed by Nino.

      The bomb guy is appropriately sweating and in a tense scene (with no music), he discovers that the bomb cannot be defused. I won’t give away the rest.

     “No Man’s Land” is highly acclaimed. It won the Best Foreign Film Oscar in an upset over the popular “Amelie”. It won a total of 42 international awards. The set (the trench) is realistic. The situation is believable, if a bit contrived. It is full of surprises. In a normal movie, the bomb would be defused. The rapprochement between Ciki and Nino would bear fruit.

      Did you guess the movie is anti-war? It is also instructive of how horrible most civil wars are. It takes some legitimate swipes at the press, stressing its desire for sensational stories. The indictment of the U.N. high command is a bit cliché. We’ve seen corrupt, Machiavellian officers in plenty of movies.

      “No Man’s Land” is a bit overrated (possibly out of sympathy for the Bosnians), but still well worth the viewing. Watch it for the interesting dilemma it revolves around and watch it so you won’t feel so guilty about sleeping through a war that killed at least 200,000 people and featured many atrocities.


  1. I haven't seen it yet I am just surprised you don't mention it is a satire. It is usually named together with Catch 22, M.A.S.H and the like... I do think it is important to know what happened and why. If it is overrated or not, is hard to say. Possible. I thought Welcome to Sarajevo was a little bit overrated. For me all the movies on Yugoslavia are hard to watch, we were flooded with people from there. We still have gang killings that link back to those cultures... I have Serbian friends and a few Croats. Civil wars are the hardest to take. Maybe they overdid the satire, I have seen ex Yugoslavian movies and they are not easily understood. I still think Savior is one of the best and most accessible. Probably Warriors too. I can give you my definite opinion once I watched it.

  2. I did not see it as a satire. To me, a satire should have some humor. I did not find the movie the least bit funny. It is critical of the media, the U.N. high command, and the ridiculousness of both sides claiming to be victims. It does not belong with MASH and Catch-22!
    Thanks for your other comments. We here in America are woefully ignorant about the Bosnian War. Hopefully the movies you mention will encourage others to delve into this tragedy.

  3. Great Review, I had seen this movie when it first came out & yes the end was kind of sad, I never expected that the closure will be done in such a tragic note..still... War is hell ..only those who survives it knows it.

  4. Thanks. Can you answer a question for me? I have been having a debate with a friend about whether it is funny. What is your opinion?

  5. Well, I don't think that it can be considered as funny specially how the movie ends, death is something which cannot be poked as fun..unless we are devoid of reminded me when some one said me Forrest Gump was a comedy which is not because to me its a tragic love story...ultimately he loses almost every one he had emotional bond the way sorry for the late comment.

  6. Get a grip boys, just because you think it isn't funny doesn't mean it isn't. The film maker would know, wouldn't he? He considers it to be funny...

  7. Maybe the concept of "black and/or dark humor" eludes non-Europeans.

  8. Reporter: "Mr. director, did you realize Europeans are laughing at your movie. Did you intend that?" Director: "Ummmmmm, yeah... [long pause] Of course I meant for it to be black humor. What's not to laugh at when two bitter enemies representing their screwed up societies try to kill each other while another is doomed to have his balls blown off by a bomb which can not be defused? That's hilarious! [tear appears in his eye]."


Please fell free to comment. I would love to hear what you think and will respond.