Wednesday, December 23, 2009

No Man's Land

My interest in No Man's Land stemmed largely from the fact that I recently visited Bosnia only to return home intrigued by the dynamics of the recent conflict there. I worked with Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks while I was visiting...and still felt undercurrents of resentment. I heard numerous first-hand accounts regarding the war as well as opinions regarding the United Nations. The opinions were as diverse as the people. I found Bosnia to be a friendly welcoming country, but the scars of war are still visible. This film explored some of those issues from an interesting context.

During the conflict, the Serbs held the high ground. They shelled Sarajevo from the hilltops while snipers had denizens of that city running for cover. Yet the Serbs met resistance at the very "gates" of the city that was unexpected. No Man's Land takes place in the hills, where the Serbs and Bosniaks are squared off against each other across a pastoral landscape. A disused booby-trapped trench lies between the two front-lines. Replacement troops from the city head out to relieve the troops already positioned on the lines. They move under the cover of darkness to avoid detection from the Serbian lines.

As the morning sun sheds light across the hillside, the replacement troops wake up to realize they are past the line of demarcation in the middle of the DMZ. As they realize their mistake, the Serbs detect their movement and open fire. One survivor (Ciki, played by Branko Djuric) finds his way to cover in the abandoned trench. Following the firefight, a rookie bookish Serbian soldier (Nino, played by Rene Bitorajac) is escorted into the DMZ to booby trap the bodies. In the process, Nino and Ciki become engaged in a standoff inside the trench. As both sides realize that they have a fighter stuck in the DMZ, the United Nations is called in to mediate. The media catches wind of the incident and further complicates the situation. The situation leads to a comedy of errors and tragic decisions that might be more accurate than anyone would want to admit.

No Man's Land creates an interesting standoff that allows an opportunity to explore the individual perspectives on the war, the broader issues underlying the war and the politically paralyzed response of the United Nations. The concept was brilliant in the ability to bring together two opposing soldiers in a very intimate setting to gain individual perspective. The film does not make judgments in this arena. However, the writing is less kind to the United Nations leadership which is exposed as bureaucratic and impersonal. The failures of the UN exacerbate the problem which adds some drama to the plot. The concept is well written with excellent dialogue.

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