REVIEW by Willard Manus

The Balkan war continues and little good has come out of it, except
perhaps for the movie NO MAN'S LAND. Written, directed and composed by Danis Tanovic, a young Bosnian filmmaker, No Man's Land is to the Balkan war what Paths of Glory was to WW I or The Fourth of July was to the Vietnam war: a powerful indictment of a bloody and meaningless clash between men and nations.

Shot in the former Yugoslav republic of Slovenia with backing from
various European film companies, No Man's Land is a true international
production, a low-budget cooperative effort that reflects well on all
concerned. With its uncompromisingly honest and tough story, its superb
acting and directing, its crisp camerawork and editing (and haunting
musical score), No Man's Land is proof that it doesn't take fifty million dollars to make a good movie, just talent and courage.

Set in the killing ground between Bosnian and Serbian lines, the story
focuses on two soldiers, Shiki (Branko Djuric), a Bosnian, and Nino
(Rene Bitorajac), a Serbian, who get trapped in a trench together. Both
are wounded, mistrustful of each other, and liable to get shot by one
side or the other if they make a run for it. To make things worse, Cera
(Filip Sovagovic), one of Shiki's comrades, is lying injured on a
booby-trapped mine that will explode and kill them all if he makes a
wrong move.

Word of this bizarre situation reaches the UN soldiers policing the
area. The chain of command goes from a French field sergeant (Georges
Siatidis) to his captain (Serge-Henri Valcke) to a British colonel
(Simon Callow). The brass prefer to play it safe and not get involved,
but Sgt. Marchand takes it on himself to try and rescue the beleagured
soldiers. When hard-boiled TV journalist Jane Livingstone (Katrin
Cartlidge) sniffs out the story, she pursues Sgt. Marchand to no man's
land and turns the proceedings into a media event.

Eventually a mine expert is called in to try and defuse the dangerous
explosive. At the same time, the colonel, watching the media frenzy
build, decides to jump on a helicopter (with his mistress in tow!) and
fly to no man's land, hoping to grab some publicity for himself.

In a Hollywood movie, the two trapped soldiers would slowly begin to
shed their hatred of each other and become friends. The mine expert
(played by Kevin Kostner or Al Pacino) would, at great personal risk,
defuse the bomb and save the day, causing the TV journalist to fall in
love with him.

No Man's Land is, however, a European film, which means that it doesn't
have to stick to the happy-ending formula. It's an art film, not an
entertainment vehicle. The soldiers, the UN brass and the sensation-hungry press discover that there are no easy ways out in this war, that the individual is powerless against the forces of history and fate.

"I wanted this film to be full of all different kinds of contrasts and
disharmonies," said Tanovic in an interview, "but I wanted the outcome
to be that disharmony and hate are unnatural, that they bring no
solution...The point of my film is not to accuse. The story is not about pointing at those who did wrong. The point is to raise a voice against any kind of war. It is my vote against violence of any kind."