No Man's Land (2001)


(director/writer/music: Danis Tanovic; cinematographer: Walther Vanden Ende; editor: Francesca Calvelli; cast: Branko Djuric (Tchiki), Rene Bitorajac (Nino), Filip Sovagovic (Tsera), Simon Callow (Colonel Soft), Katrin Cartlidge (Jane Livingstone), Georges Siatidis (Marchand), Mustafa Nadarevic (Old Serbian Soldier); Runtime: 114; United Artists; 2001-Serbia)

Its success is mainly because of the taut script, the good acting, and the effective directing.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A witty black comedy anti-war film directed and written by Bosnian Danis Tanovic and filmed in Slovenia. It won this year’s Oscar for best foreign film by wholly capturing the absurdity of war theme.

A Bosnian relief patrol gets lost at night and in the dawn they are spotted in an open field, where they are gunned down. The Serbian commander sends a crusty sergeant and a new recruit, Nino (Bitorajac), to investigate the trenches for anyone alive. The sergeant booby traps a dead Bosnian with a land mine, as he says with glee this will kill those who move the body. But one of the Bosnian soldiers was only wounded, Tchiki (Djuric), and he kills the sergeant and wounds Nino. It turns out the man with the ‘bouncing mine’ underneath him, Tsera (Sovagovic), is also alive.

The situation remains tense as the three soldiers are trapped in “no man’s land,” in a trench between the two opposing armies. Tchiki tells Nino he’s in charge because he’s got the gun. Later their situation is reversed and Nino parrots what Tchiki told him about who is holding the gun. The obvious message being that the one who has the gun is in charge.

In one amusing but depressing scene, Nino and Tchiki childishly argue back and forth about which country started the war.

The U.N. tank team, in the area to disperse humanitarian aid and be peacekeepers, under French Sergeant Marchand (Georges Siatidis), responds to a call for help and gets both sides to agree to a cease-fire while they go into the trench to examine the soldier laying atop of the explosive. As a result, they ask for a land mine expert to de-fuse it. But Marchand is ordered by a bungling, selfish, hedonistic bureaucrat, Colonel Soft (Callow), to return to his base. Into the picture comes the media, as aggressive British TV cable news reporter Jane Livingstone monitors the U.N. radio frequency and reports the tense situation on the air. She’s pictured as a patronizing reporter who is only interested in getting the story and making a reputation for herself.

This film is provocative and realistically presents the explosive atmosphere surrounding this dirty ethnic war. Its success is mainly because of the taut script, the good acting, and the effective directing. It mocks the U.N. efforts from its top commanders, as basically trying to cover their own asses. Also, there’s a lack of communication since everyone involved in the conflict seems to speak a different language. Everything about the war seems futile and points to a political breakdown, as the armies are held as pawns by the uncompromising parties waging this catastrophe.