DVD Review - In the Land of Blood and Honey

Goran Kostic in Angelina Jolie's
"In the Land of Blood and Honey"
Angelina Jolie wrote, produced and directed this film about the war in Bosnia from 1992 to 1995. The cause of the war is not given but whatever the reason, by the end of the war it had become the deadliest conflict in Europe since World War II with 50,000 women reportedly raped. Those women were Muslim and their rapists were Serbian men. Jolie's story follows one such Muslim woman and one such Serbian man.

Zana Marjanovic stars as Ajla, a Muslim woman and aspiring painter who before the war meets Danijel, played by Goran Kostic. Danijel is a soldier and the son of a military general. Danijel's father seems like he has political power but that isn't made explicitly clear. When the war begins, Danijel becomes a kind of commander, leading certain military and quasi-police units. Ajla is brought to his unit as a prisoner after she witnesses Serbian forces separate Muslim men from their families and kill those men in mass executions.

All the women who are brought as prisoners are raped or forced to service the Serbian men. Danijel had fallen in love with Ajla, so he spares her from the brutality but she's still a prisoner. He protects her while she's there, but, despite the affair, there is a question of trust. Danijel wants to be a good soldier but he disagrees with the Serbian tactics. He doesn't disagree enough to do anything about it. The ethical dilemma for him only extends far enough to justify his behavior toward Ajla.

Danijel does voice concern over the senseless killings perpetrated. Obviously, he's in a situation that he can't so easily escape, much like Ajla, but Danijel has way more leeway. He has so much so that he's able to kill a fellow Serbian with impunity. A little more of a sense of what was holding him there was probably needed. Danijel repeatedly provides ways for Ajla to flee this imprisonment that one wonders why he doesn't just flee himself.

I suppose an anchor was needed, as Jolie walked us through the horrors in this war. An anchor is understandable because if not this would be a very difficult movie to stomach. It's literally one horrible thing after another, but Jolie lays out the horrors very straightforward. The movie was shot on location in Bosnia and Jolie doesn't feel the need to embellish or showboat, as a first-time feature film director might. All she wants to do is show us what's there and what happened, which is enough to build a narrative. There is a narrative here with a plot twist that doesn't hit you over the head. It's subtle, so subtle that you're never expecting the gun shot to the head, but it's a perfect period. Jolie certainly knows how to punctuate.

Five Stars out of Five.
Rated R for war violence and atrocities, rape, nudity and language.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 7 mins.


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