NO MAN'S LAND
Review by Michael Jacobson
Branko Djuric, Rene Bitorajac, Filip Sovagovic, Simon Callow, Katrin
Director: Danis Tanovic
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1, Pan & Scan 1.33:1
Features: Theatrical Trailer
Length: 97 Minutes
Release Date: April 9, 2002
the difference between a pessimist and an optimist? A pessimist thinks things can't get worse.
An optimist KNOWS they can.”
Truffaut once said it was impossible to make an anti-war movie, because the
action in them inevitably makes war look exciting. Perhaps it's no coincidence that some of the best films
about the futility of war involve the inability to act. Dr. Strangelove, for example, isn't so much about
accidentally starting a nuclear war, but about our leaders' inability to
the heart of No Man's Land is a character who can't move because
he's on a Bouncing Betty land mine. To
get up would mean death for him and those in his trench. It's just another incident in a long raging war, but this
time, the eyes of the world are watching. Death
may be everywhere around them, but here is a story that everyone finds
film from writer/director Danis Tanovic stands shoulder to shoulder with some of
the great pictures depicting the absurdity of war. It's the kind of movie that could not have been made in
Hollywood. It might have been attempted,
but our placid vision of two enemy soldiers trapped in a trench would have
become a microcosm of human understanding and delivered the message that maybe
peace was possible, even if only one bond at a time. Tanovic, on the other hand, has obviously seen too much
reality to make such a tidy film.
two aforementioned men are the Serb Ciki (Djuric) and the Bosnian Nino (Bitorajac).
They end up in a trench in the
middle of No Man's Land, within sight of two armies who don't know what to
do because they don't even know whose side the men are on!
And complicating their tense situation is another Bosnian, Sera (Sovagovic),
originally thought dead. His body
was booby trapped with the land mine, and now that he's come to, he's forced
to just lie there and wait. This is
a microcosm, all right, but a real one. What
happens in the trench is no different than the rest of the war in Bosnia.
Neither of the mobile men trusts the other, and we wait for the other
shoe to drop. In the meantime, that
land mine is an even BIGGER shoe.
peacekeeping forces try to reach the men, after begging both sides not to shoot
(and hoping the message is actually understood). When they see Ciki and Nino at each other's throat, they
draw an instant conclusion about them and about both sides in the war:
“They're f—king maniacs!”. Their
superior wants them out of there; they can do nothing and there's no sense in
getting killed on a peacekeeping mission.
the press gets a hold of it, and a reporter for Global News (Cartlidge) decides
there's a story there. What
follows is a both bleakly funny and disturbing, as the UN soldiers try and make
it look like they're doing something while really doing nothing.
“Act like you're busy,” a superior actually tells his mine expert.
absurdity is plain…here is the war that introduced the terrible term “ethnic
cleansing” to the world vocabulary. Here,
in plain view, is a small particle of that war with a distinct human
drama…easier to digest and strangely more intriguing than the massacre of
thousands. This in a sense becomes
the goodwill Saving Private Ryan mission for the UN…the one small good
deed that might put a positive face on unimaginable horror.
But the Ryan mission, despite being absurd, at least had heart.
Here, we have a peacekeeping force that would rather not be bothered with
what it considers a trifle situation, but they have to proceed cautiously, lest
the media show the world just how ineffectual they really were.
film wisely sidesteps the issue of who is right and who was wrong in the
conflict. To be about the politics
of war, the film would have to be about the politics of action, and here,
we have only the politics of inaction.
The final shot in the movie is astounding and speaks volumes.
If enough people see it (and they should), I think it could become almost
as culturally ingrained as the final shot of Citizen Kane.
Man's Land won
both the Golden Globe and the Oscar for Best Foreign Language film, and it very
much deserved them. It's a
deceptively simple yet bold statement about the absurdity of war…the things we
can't help but chuckle about in spite of the horrors.
Or just maybe, because of the horrors.
is a superb anamorphic offering from MGM (trust me, you don't want to watch
this movie in pan & scan). The
outdoor lighting makes for a beautiful setting, despite the conflict.
The level of detail in the fields, rocks, and trenches is astounding,
with crisply defined lines and terrifically rendered and natural looking colors.
Save for very minute instances of noticeable print spots and a bit of
shimmer during the final shot, it's very close to being reference quality.
you might expect from a war movie, this 5.1 soundtrack is exemplary and dynamic.
Moments of long winding dialogue are punctuated by the harsh intrusive
sounds of war…expect to be startled; you won't always know when they're
coming. The action oriented scenes are lively and clean, with plenty
of front to rear stage action with smooth crossovers and good balance, and
plenty of rumblings for your subwoofer. Quieter
scenes are equally well rendered…the sounds of war are sometimes distant, but
always present, making for a good multi-dimensional effect.
A quality listen all around.
a trailer, but it's a remarkably good one.