No man’s land mine

No Man’s Land

Directed by Danis Tanovic

(Branko Djuric, Filip Sovagovic and Katrin Cartlidge)




No Man’s Land, the Bosnian war drama, is a perfect foil to standard Hollywood style. It is the story of soldiers and war told not through conventional explosions and firefights but through dialogue and an ominous calmñsaying volumes more than most war epics in half the time.

The opening scene sets the tone as a lost band of Bosnian soldiers talk about war as they wander through a night fog. As the sun rises on these doomed men, they stumble upon the enemy and most are killed. The only two survivors are pinned down in a trench halfway between the Serbian and Bosnian lines. One is severely wounded and the other finds himself lying on a mine, unable to move. And with these two is one captured Serbñthe enemy.

It is in this setting that the film creates its most engaging moments. The Serb and the Bosnians start to befriend one other, only to remember their programmed hatred of the other side. Both armies ignore their stranded men. The United Nations, meant to help the wounded, is kept at a distance by a bureaucracy that cares more about image than assistance. International media finally get the U.N. to the scene, where they then manipulate the situation for ratings.

The film’s cynical climax is a metaphor for the human condition: The two feuding soldiers bring their fates upon themselves, and the helpless man on the mine, praying for death anywhere but there, is doomed by weapons of destruction hidden just beneath the surface.

A film like this must seem like a punch in the face to those who see Black Hawk Down and Pearl Harbor as fine cinema. Unlike these war films, with their focus on heroic characters in action-packed sequences offering existential conclusions, No Man’s Land reduces war to its core elements of futility, needless sacrifice and ridiculous notions of civility and allows its absurdity to impart the meaning.

Yet, there is still restraint in director Danis Tanovic’s style. It is not eccentric in the vein of Apocalypse Now, nor cryptic with anti-war bias. Rather, he seems to merely throw up his hands, shake his head and tragically admit that this is the worst of human natureñwhere peacekeepers help conduct a “humane” war, where the media dictates reality and where hatred runs so deep that death apart is better than life together.

There is no Josh Hartnett in this world. There are no heroes. Only solitude, waiting, death, and hopelessness.

-Steve Snyder


No Man’s Land plays through tomorrow at MegaStar Southdale Center 16 and will open at the Lagoon on February 22.