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This review is from: No Man's Land [DVD]   (DVD)
In part black comedy, throughout a harrowing anti-war film, "No Man's Land" takes us into the theatre of the absurd and a tiny amphitheatre, an abandoned trench between the Serbian and Bosnian front lines. The soldiers trapped in this war are hapless amateurs and out-of-place professionals, constrained by propaganda, suspicion, politics and prejudice ... all trying not to be trigger happy, and all acutely aware of how quickly death can occur but not how quickly they might panic. It's a war of dirty tricks and institutionalised distrust - the poor French sergeant in the UN peacekeeping force has to deal with the English and the Germans, and the Germans, of course, speak English but not French.
The Bosnians and Serbs are civilians who may have been given some rudimentary military training - enough to point and shoot an AK-47 - and a lifetime's indoctrination in hatred of the other side. The film opens with a bunch of them - these are amateurs, they don't warrant the description of patrol, section, squad, detachment - blundering through the mist trying to find their own lines.
They're going to end up in a hole in the ground ... albeit an abandoned trench. They're going to be joined there by a couple of guys from the other side ... and find themselves in the company of mines - which, of course have no way of discriminating friend from foe. They're in a hole in the ground and if they try to get out they'll trigger a booby trap or two or be shot at by both sides. Their only hope of escape is recourse to the United Nations. It becomes a black and blue comedy at this stage.
The performances are excellent, your sympathies get sucked right in to the drama and you hope against hope there will be a happy ending. A happy ending in a civil war, now that would be a twist. The claustrophobia of hatred is emphasised by the confines of the hole in the ground, the absurd ineffectualness of the UN made evident by the amount of ground they have to cover and their sense of exposure.
Tensely paced, this is a beautifully scripted and beautifully observed drama. Little people caught up in a squalid little war which constitutes their whole (maybe hole) world. This gives a whole new meaning to being in a hole.
The humour is understated, but this is a highly intense drama, a tragedy which you watch unfolding before your eyes. I watched this film while war crimes trials were under way and the news was just emerging of another mass grave of massacred civilians being uncovered. The legacy of the war is not something which is going to go away.