No Man’s Land
Director: Danis Tanovic
Starring: Branko Djuric, Kartin Cartlidge, Rene Bistorajac


We have seen in recent years a glut of war films from Saving Private Ryan to Windtalkers each trying to outdo the other in gore and splatter. Each of these films has marketed itself on dubious claims to realism while succeeding in telling us little more than, well, war is gory and providing a pornography of violence. Another characteristic of these films is a disturbing tendency to rewrite history to the extent that a more cynical observer than I might feel they were a justification of military adventurism.

It is with relief that we come across Oscar-winning No Man’s Land, a film that gives a considered representation of war — specifically the Bosnian war — without resorting to the blood-and-guts routines of the mainstream. It is perhaps significant that Danis Tanovic is, unlike the Dream Factory’s crew, a director with a first-hand experience of conflict.

This story of a Bosnian soldier trapped in a trench between the lines with a Serb and another injured soldier lying on a spring mine that could go off any time is excoriating about both the Bosnian and Serb sides and the incompetent and ineffective international peacekeepers. In its refusal to see black and white it achieves a perspective and credibility absent in most other war movies and places itself alongside satires such as Catch 22 and M*A*S*H.

Possibly it is too specific to the Balkans conflagration to be a universal counter weight to the spectacular crud thrown at us these days but No Man’s Land is morally and cinematically a very worthwhile film.

Review by Chris Page

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