For many ‘film buffs’ who grew up in the ’90s and just started realizing there was more to international films than the Home Alone trilogy, 2001 was a momentous year. One of ‘our’ films, Lagaan, made it to the Oscar nominations and shocked everyone worldwide (HOW could they ignore Sunny Deol’s water-pump-aided destruction of an entire country in Gadar?!?!) What was more shocking was that ‘we’ didn’t win, because in our heads, that wasn’ t really an option.
And even though 2001 was the year when Amelie became the one (and mostly only) movie that all ‘world cinema connoisseurs’ from India would ever see, the film that whooped the a**es of both Amelie and Lagaan, and rightfully so, was a Bosnian-Herzegovinan masterpiece called No Man’s Land.
The debut feature film from Bosnian writer-director, Danis Tanovic, No Man’s Land was an atypical war film – one that didn’t rely on strategy, invasion, explosions, gunfire, spilling guts or lots and lots of blood – but on the remarkable interaction between two soldiers, from opposite sides in the war.
A Bosniac soldier, Ciki (Branko Duric) and a Bosnian Serb, Nino (Rene Bitorajac) are caught in a ‘no man’s land’ trench between their respective battle lines, along with a third solder, who is unfortunately above a landmine, which would explode if at all he moves. The two soldiers themselves can’t get out of the trench because they’d then be killed by enemy fire from the other end.
Stuck in this bizarre catch-22, the two soldiers trade insults and jibes, mock each other, bicker with each other and vent to each other, only to realize how similar they are. The brilliant writing and direction captures precisely the fleeting moments when the two soldiers realize the futility of their anger towards each other and are reaching towards mutual respect – but are then overcome by duty and the realization that they are ‘enemies’.
The movie masterfully showcases the tragedy of the situation, the shallowness of the media, the apathy of the people in power, and the bitter-sweet comedy in it all. No Man’s Land is a movie that engages you, absorbs you, shocks you, but most importantly, makes you feel. It’s a movie about humanity – and how it’s a much misused phrase in the time of war.
Watch the movie for the spectacular acting, the tight screenplay, the focused direction and the fantastic dialogues, but mostly, watch it for the story of an unlikely friendship that never was, that perhaps isn’t, and that in principle, can’t be, but one, if it happens often enough, could supersede the need for war.
Starring: Branko Djuric, Rene Biotrajac, Filip Sovagovic
Written By: Danis Tanovic
Directed By: Danis Tanovic
Note: This recommendation first appeared in MTV Noise Factory, July 2011 issue
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