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2 reviews, 11 user ratings

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No Man's Land (2001)
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by Preston Jones

"A Bosnian M*A*S*H doesn't begin to do justice..."
4 stars

A war film that defies the genre, writer/director Danis Tanovic’s No Man’s Land is a tragicomedy of wartime manners that unfolds like a bullet-ridden staging of Waiting for Godot.

Set in 1993 during the Bosnian conflict, No Man’s Land is a scathing, satirical, nearly farcical look at how modern war is fought.
Elements of other war films, such as Mike Nichols’ Catch-22 and Robert Altman’s M*A*S*H, can be felt throughout Tanovic’s debut feature film. The irreverent attitude on display for much of the running time makes the proceedings feel more like comedy than a hard-bitten war drama.
No Man’s Land piles on the comic moments; Tanovic seems to think that there’s no point in driving home the brutalities of war because the conflict’s already gone far past sanity, leaving only absurdity. Two men stripped down and waving clothing, black humor found in a wounded man lying on a mine, Odd Couple-style bickering between Nico and Chiki over who’s to blame for starting the war—Tanovic uses all of these situations to underscore his point.
The film opens in a dense fog; indeed, the audience is momentarily disoriented. A group of Bosnian fighters, temporarily stranded by the fog, beds down for the night and awaits daylight.
Upon sunrise, the Bosnians find themselves staring down the barrels of Serbian soldiers’ guns. A firefight ensues, with most of the Bosnians dying save for Chiki (Branko Djuric), who escapes into a trench with a minor wound.
The trench cuts through the middle of a field, the metaphorical “no man’s land” of the title, which is divided between the Serbians and Bosnians. Thinking the Bosnians dead, the Serbians send out two men to investigate. Chiki hides, fearing for his life.
His friend, Cera (Filip Sovagovic) lies wounded in the trench; Chiki suspects he’s dead. The Serbian soldiers rig the body with a bouncing mine set to kill whoever claims the body. Chiki springs from his hiding place to kill one and wound Nico (Rene Bitorajac).
What unfolds from this point is by turns funny and sad. The men quarrel over who started the war while Cera regains consciousness, finding himself in quite a predicament. Soon, the United Nations peacekeeping force arrives to deal with the situation and a thoughtful French soldier, Sergeant Marchand (Georges Siatidis) tries to deal with the increasingly volatile problem.
Toss Jane Livingstone, (Katrin Cartlidge), a nosy reporter for a cable news network, into the mix, and, suddenly, the three men in the trench become temporary international celebrities.
Writer/director Tanovic’s debut feature begins strongly, falters in the middle and finishes powerfully. When he introduces Livingstone to the film, he becomes bogged down in military journalism clichés; these quirks of front-line reporters were handled better in David O. Russell’s 1999 Gulf War flick Three Kings.
The cast is superb, with the standouts being Siatidis’s conflicted Marchand, Sovagovic’s Cera, caught between a rock and a hard place, and Djuric’s Chiki, who runs the gamut of human emotions throughout the film. Walther Van den Ende’s cinema-tography captures the rugged beauty of Bosnia without appearing overly arty.
While some moviegoers may feel the need to skip this film because it’s a foreign film or it has subtitles, don’t. Foreign films are a worthwhile experience that broaden cinematic horizons and offer something far more nourishing than the celluloid garbage that clogs multiplexes most of the time.

No Man’s Land is a difficult film to pin down; indeed, it inspires laughter while sending a feeling of unease through the stomach. Danis Tanovic has fashioned a compelling film that forces audiences to deal with both the harsh realities and tragic absurdities of war.

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originally posted: 02/23/02 05:43:09
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User Comments

8/28/03 Nicole Great movie 4 stars
1/10/03 Goofy Maxwell What do you call a guy on a spring-loaded mine? Busta Gut Laffin! Oh, wait... 3 stars
8/14/02 The Bomb 69 Uneasy feeling when movie finished, solid but should not have beaten Amelie for Oscar!! 5 stars
4/28/02 Melly Love it, love it.... Very funny.... 5 stars
3/18/02 Mitja Podgajski I LOVE IT!! 5 stars
2/13/02 joe excelent 5 stars
2/11/02 daniboy such a great movie 5 stars
1/08/02 mara z. GREAT movie. 5 stars
1/04/02 Heather Amazing war/anti-war movie 5 stars
12/29/01 Tin Waow 5 stars
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  07-Dec-2001 (R)



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