Between war and peace, humor and hate, capture and surrender, life and death lies No Man's Land. Set in the unforgiving trenches of the Bosnian-Serb conflict, this "astonishing" (Chicago Tribune) film follows the story of ... more »three soldiers caught between two fighting lines. Hailed as "one of the best films of 2001,"* No Man's Land is a "powerful, harrowing, shockingly entertaining" (Movieline) exploration of the absurdity of war. Fleeing enemy fire, an injuredBosnian soldier named ?iki retreats to a trench, where he finds himself trapped with a woundedcomrade and worse a Serbian! With no way to escape and with his fellow soldier lying on a spring-loaded bomb set to explode if he moves, ?iki realizes he must do the unthinkabletrust his enemyIf he wants to survive. *Associated Press, Chicago Tribune, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Hollywood Reporter, New York Daily News, New York Post.« less
Realistic as well as a metaphor on the absurdity of war
Linda Linguvic | New York City | 10/26/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Academy Award winner in 2002 for Best Foreign Film, this film about the recent war between the Bosnians and Serbs is not only grimly realistic, it is also is a metaphor on the absurdity of war in general. When two soldiers from opposing forces become trapped in a trench together, the seriousness of the situation escalates when a third wounded soldier, at first presumed dead, is actually alive. Problem is that he has been placed on a mine that will kill them all if he is moved. And, as the soldiers argue, it becomes clear that the one with the gun is the one who will always win the argument. Eventually, the UN becomes involved and the absurdity thickens. There were parts in the film where I laughed out loud, as the grim realism of the constant power struggles that are endemic to human nature are explored.The titles were in English so I could follow the film, but one of the themes was that everyone spoke a different language, further complicating the matter. There's the British diplomat, the French U.N. troops, the German land mine expert, and the three soldiers trapped in their outrageous situation. The soldiers had a lot in common, speaking the same language and even had some common memories of a local girl they both knew. And the scene is indeed comical when, in order to alert the U.N. officials to their situation, they both take off their uniforms and wave white flags. But they are sworn enemies and want to kill each other also. The acting is outstanding, with actors from that particular area of the world. But the screenplay itself its one of the best I have ever scene. Every bit of dialogue moved the action forward and was layered with meanings that went far beyond the situation. The setting didn't require huge special effects and could actually be turned into a stage play although it might be hard to stage it in so many languages, as this "tower of Babel" kind of language confusion was one of the central themes of the film.This film is destined to join the ranks of some of the greatest symbolic war films of all time, including "The Red Badge of Courage" and "All Quiet on the Western Front." However, as this is a modern film, it includes the irony and absurdity that represent our culture today. I give this film my highest recommendation. Don't miss it."
The War of Theirs
Alysson Oliveira | Sao Paulo-- Brazil | 01/29/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Undoubtfully war is hell, but it seems that people need to be reminded of it all the time. This `No Man's Land' is a great reminder. Having almost a documentary approach the film shows a couple of hours in the lives of two soldiers one Bosnian and another Serbian who happen to be caught in the same trench where another soldier lies on a mine that may be detonated by any move of his. Later on, two more forces will be added: the UN and the Press, giving a new breath to the movie. I won't give more about this film, because doing it would mean take the `pleausure' of those who haven't seen it yet. More than clarifying, the film rises questions that expect to be answered by the audience. For instance, early in the movie, the two soldires argue which nation has started the war, blaming each other's country. Another insteresting point mentioned in the film that is hardly ever showed in the movies is the UN role in wars. The script is very well balanced, once it shows both sides of its work, there are soldiers who really want to help and do something to make the war over-- like Marchand --, but, on the other hand, some people only want publicity and play political games. Another thing is the difficulties that UN faces in order to at least try to help people, for instance, the communication is extremely hard, due to the fact that there are people from many places in the world and many of them can't even understand English, mainly the soldiers. Some people complain that the screenplay is very clichèd when it comes to the press, but I don't think so. It loosely reminded me of "Three Kings" -- which by the way is a terrific movie. I think the press is shown the way it is. They are desperate for breaking news; the reporters are dying for discoverying something brand new and exclusive, but it is hard, once everybody is covering the same war. The press looks inquisitive and it can be helpful sometimes, once one knows how to use them, see Marchand using a reporter to pressure his superiors to allow him to help the three soldiers.The cast is very good. The native actors delivery extremely fine. I don't know if they've been to the war but they look as if they've been on the front for a long time. Seeing Katrin Cartlidge's face in the middle of all those people seemed like finding a friend in a hostile place. She is so fine as reporter that we root for her being able to telecast everthing without being censured by UN. But the one I liked most was the French actor Georges Siatidis -- who plays Marchand. We can easily see why he joined UN and how frustrated he is because he cannot help the soldiers, once his superiors forbide him of doing so. Most of the time he gives just one look and you can see all he means. All in all, in this time of wars everywhere this film is very helpful. I don't think it is a kind of film for everybody, but it is, certainly, recomended for those who care about serious issues that may affect the world as a whole. The writer director Danis Tanovic deliveries a very disturbing and realistic film, showing that sometimes there are no solutions -- or help -- at all, and the only thing that can be done is avoiding start a new war."
Brilliant, humorous, and bleak
Jeffrey Leach | Omaha, NE USA | 12/11/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The problems plaguing the Balkans go on and on without end. Historians, political scientists, sociologists, and a plethora of other academics have isolated a number of these difficulties. There is, for example, the Ottoman domination of the region for roughly 500 years. This occupation cut off the area from the rest of Europe and its attendant social, political, and economic currents. Too, the Turks elevated tensions between ethnic groups in an effort to hold on to power once the Ottoman Empire began disintegrating, tensions that continue to fester today. Finally, don't discount the absolutely atrocious attitudes Western Europe held about the area throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The Great Powers drew up borders with little regard for the peoples in question, virtually ensuring that Serbs, Croats, Bosnians, Macedonians, Albanians, Greeks, and all the rest would continue to fight amongst themselves in an effort to restore their traditional lands. To sit back and wonder why those darn people in the Balkans can't seem to get their act together is to admit an ignorance of history. At the same time, figuring it all out doesn't seem to help either. Understanding what ethnic groups were fighting in the former Yugoslavia, and why they were fighting, was about as easy as deciphering the situation in Beirut in the 1980s.
Enter director Danis Tanovic's "No Man's Land," a film that captures perfectly the mind-boggling conundrums of the Balkan battlefield during the years after the Cold War. The film also transcends the peculiarities of the region to make a statement about the absurdities of war in the age of mass media. It all starts in the early 1990's in Bosnia, where Serbs and Croats are battling it out for control of the region. A small squad (platoon?) of Bosnian soldiers runs smack dab into a Serbian emplacement and pays a heavy price for the mistake. Two of the soldiers, Ciki (Branko Djuric) and Cera (Filip Sovagovic) manage to find refuge in an abandoned trench that just happens to run between Serb and Bosnian lines. While trying to figure out what to do with the seriously wounded Cera, Ciki hears a couple of Serbs coming down the trench. He hides in a bunker, helpless without a weapon, as the Serbs booby trap the prostrate Cera with an especially dangerous landmine. When an opportunity to pick up a gun presents itself, Ciki kills one of the soldiers and holds the other, Nino (Rene Bitorajac), hostage. The two bicker back and forth about who started the war, an interesting argument that radically changes in its answer whenever one of the soldiers gains an advantage over the other.
In the meantime, Cera suddenly wakes up and attempts to move. Both Nino and Ciki, realizing they will die too if the landmine goes off, try to keep the wounded man stable. How to resolve such a dilemma? Why, call in the good old United Nations and its blue helmeted peacekeeping forces, of course! Yeah, right. The UN is about as helpless in this conflict as a rat caught in a trap. Even when a series of incidents eventually alert the peacekeepers to the unfolding events in the trench, the smarmy UN General Soft (played by an oily Simon Callow) oscillates between helping the trapped soldiers and writing them off as a lost cause. A pushy reporter at the scene, Jane Livingstone (Katrin Cartlidge) doesn't help matters much. She constantly badgers the French peacekeepers to allow her access to the trench so she can broadcast the whole thing live for stellar ratings. The peacekeepers don't know what to do; they only gained access to the trench by negotiating a temporary ceasefire that could end at any second, and they are hard pressed to keep Ciki and Nino from killing each other. Poor Cera, caught up in all this brouhaha. A German mine expert brought in to defuse the device can do little to help.
The conclusion to the film is grim, but Tanovic infuses many parts of his film with great humor. The image of first Nino and then Ciki dancing around in "No Man's Land" in only their underwear, trying desperately to send a signal to their countrymen not to shoot, is hilarious. So are their arguments about the war and who the aggressors are. These disagreements essentially degenerate into a pouty, childlike exchange along the lines of "You did." "No, you did." It's nicely done how Tanovic uses such dialogue to show us the banality of war. He also uses the two men as a symbol of the larger ethnic squabbles. For instance, notice how the two achieve an uneasy peace after learning that they spent time in the same town and have a common acquaintance. This is very much in keeping with the Balkan conflicts, where many of the combatants lived and worked together in the same town for years before picking up rifles to kill each other. The role of the media in the incident comes in for especially severe criticism from Tanovic. Through the Jane Livingstone character we see how the hysterical push for a story at all costs shapes how the United Nations responds to the tragedy. The threat of bad press is the only thing that pushes Soft to take action. "No Man's Land" takes a unequivocally negative view of everyone involved in the conflict.
Don't expect to see many extras on this disc. MGM is notorious for being rather spotty in the supplements department. I remember seeing a trailer for the film, and nothing more. Oh well, the film is good enough that you don't need much to understand what it is trying to say. I applaud Danis Tanovic for making such a pitch black, piercing statement about the Balkan conflicts. This one places him right up there with Kubrick's "Dr. Strangelove," a position that few attain.
A modern day parable about the farce of war
Joseph Haschka | Glendale, CA USA | 11/22/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"NO MAN'S LAND opens in the small hours of an impenetrably foggy night with a small contingent of Bosnian replacement soldiers groping their way to the front lines during their 1990s war with the Serbs. Sunrise finds them inadvertently caught between opposing forces, and then the Serbs start shooting. A couple of hours later, circumstances find Ciki and Nino, Bosnian and Serb respectively, marooned and wounded together in an abandoned trench between the combatants. The relationship between the two antagonists predictably starts with animosity, as depicted in a scene in which they volley shouts back and forth, like two children, about which side started the conflict. (Unsurprisingly, the one holding the loaded gun at the moment has the last word.) Then, they almost reach a rapprochement upon discovering that they both come from the same town and both know the same girl, a blond with big ... well, you know. However, the situation is complicated by the presence in the trench of another Bosnian soldier, Ciki's friend, under whose apparently dead body the Serbs had planted a Bouncing Betty mine, which, once the weight holding it down is removed, pops to a height of three feet before exploding. Unfortunately, the "dead" man isn't lifeless, only temporarily rendered unconscious from an artillery round. In any case, once a local French contingent of the UN "peacekeeping" force and the British news babe from a global TV news network get involved, the situation deteriorates.The actors in NO MAN'S LAND will be unfamiliar to U.S. audiences. Branko Djuric and Rene Biturajac are very good as Ciki and Nino respectively. Sergeant Marchand, the long-suffering, honorable NCO in charge of the French UN detachment, and whose sincere efforts to make a difference for the better are foiled by his timid, politically correct superiors, is sympathetically played by Georges Siatidis.This tragicomedy, Bosnia's official entry for the Foreign Language Academy Award, reminds us that tribal conflicts, especially those based on ethnic or religious hatreds (as opposed to simple land grabs), are frustratingly impervious to a rational explanation or resolution. And, furthermore, the well-intentioned efforts by outside do-gooders to reduce the odium will likely be ineffectual in the long run, and may make things worse in the short run, especially if the raisons d'être have been poorly defined.This is a short (97 minute) but thought provoking film. As I was lucky enough to see a pre-release screening, I highly recommend it for adult viewing, though one will likely have to make the effort to find the art house theater in which it will appear."
Joseph Haschka | 03/24/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Tanovic's movie theme illustrates the similarities between the enemy-the Serb-and the Bosnian Muslim, ending up together in the trench on no man's land: they speak the same language, share the same miserable experience, find out they had the same girlfriend, smoke the same cigarette, hope for the way out... Tanovic symbolically transcends the message that both the Serb and the Bosnian being stuck in the trench are actually stuck in the absurd war for and during which many innocent people had become victims and died. The most profound symbolism of all occurs in the portrayal of the Bosnian lying on the hand-grenade where, instead of effectively offering a helping hand, UN peacekeepers provide him nothing but sympathy. Through this scene, Tanovic emphasizes the notion that while innocent Bosnians were stuck helpless and dying during the war, the others muted and incompetent only observed. The symbolism rendered through the movie resembles the reality of the three and a half-year Bosnian war, and the movie becomes a historical mark that can teach many the circumstances of the war. "No Man's Land" speaks the truth, and Tanovic wasn't afraid of it."