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on 30 January 2003
Last year, just before the Academy voted their choices for the Oscars, Miramax launched a campaign. The campaign was pretty simple - to have the Academy, who's vote choices included Best Foreign Language Film, to actually have SEEN the foreign language films they were voting from. The only Miramax film in this category was the hugely popular French movie Amelie, which is what most would have been voted for without the campaign as it is probably the only film most of the voters would have seen, so this was a brave and rather admirable step for Miramax to take. The campaign was launched, the films were viewed, and No Man's Land, a Bosnian film, won.
Whether it is, in fact, better than Amelie or whether the Academy followed suit from Cannes and thought it was too 'lightweight' for an Oscar is debatable but this is still a very good war film.
The story is pretty simple. In 1993, two Bosnians and a Serb are caught in a trench between enemy lines. They - eventually - call a truce as one of the Bosnians is lying on top of an unexploded mine, planted by the Serbs to fool the Bosnians when they think the soldier is dead, that would explode if he got up and kill all of them. Things start spinning out of hand when the UN and the media become involved, not least because they all seem to speak different languages.
Dani Tanovic's biting war film has satirical touches - the situation would almost be a comic set up if it were not for the threat to the soldiers' lives. The soldiers from the opposing sides (the third, on the mine, is a smaller though crucial part), through their fights and arguments learn a little about each other and both come to the conclusion that the war will solve nothing and it is the other side's fault it started. They both have opportunities to kill each other but do not, not because they become friends but because they realise that it would be a human being they were killing rather than just another enemy soldier.
Perhaps No Man's Land does not have the scope of movies such as Apocalypse Now, or the emotional depth of movies like Platoon or Schindler's List, but it still outlines how pointless war is and the effect it can have on people. It gets the message across well, as it shows us the situation from four different viewpoints - the soldiers involved; the concerned UN blue caps ("smurfs"); the nosy news reporter; and the indifferent bigwig (played by Simon Callow).
The situation in the movie has an effect on everyone's lives involved, and you will find yourself on the edge of your seat all the way up to the inevitable, and devastating, climax. At 98 minutes it is a little short but it still manages to fulfil its purpose and this is considerably better than some of the gung-ho war movies Hollywood sporadically spews out.
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on 23 May 2017
The beginning is like great expectations by carol reed for intensity of fear and like Bleak house for intensity of fog. Then out rolls the problem or problems - here if theyncan they heap injury to insult. The language is little better than the gutter both proponents came from. Eventually they decide by leaping about semi naked they will get unprofor on their side. This is where the ladies come into the story as eye candy. - the first a reporter the second is the british colonel's charge de fer or bit on the side. Eventually everything is resolved and everyone goes away happy, Who can go away. There is a snake in the grass as venomous as any asp and the denouement is left to your imagination.
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on 7 November 2016
Sad, poignant & moving film about the pointlessness & frustration of war. Well written, directed and acted.
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on 16 September 2005
I first watched this film a couple of years ago on TV, to try to develop my understanding of what happened during the Yugoslav conflicts and to help improve my language skills.
I hadn't heard anything about it before so didn't hold out much hope for a great movie. How wrong can you be?
This film is a work of art. How close to reality is comes I can't say, but it brings together a real flavour of the cultures, tensions and shared past/future.
The film is compelling, humorous and downright gut wrenching. The film is undeniably gripping, delivered with spoon-full's of black humour, and punctuated with grotesque futility.
I have subsequently re-watched this movie and enjoyed bits that I'd missed first time around.
My only disappointment is with some of the translation, which is not word perfect and could have added more for those who don't know any basic Yugoslavian (sorry for lumping the languages together rather clumsily).
However, this is without doubt in my top 10 all-time must see films. So buy it (especially at such a cheap price for an Oscar winning Film).
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on 3 April 2003
It is simply one of the best films war I have ever seen.
It is film about life and how much is worth.See that film and ask yourself; how much do we appreciate and respect ourselves and others.It gives crule picture and all the answers,and it is not only a war film, it is film about humankind
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on 21 January 2003
After the first time I saw the movie I thought how it was the best, simplest and most honest portrayal of the war in Bosnia. Later on I realised it is true for any war. You are brought into the life of young people in front-line trenches, the way life really is when you face the end of the gun and not what is portrayed in newspapers and by politicians. Brilliant, tragic yet on verge of humour. Don't miss it!
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on 24 February 2004
This film has provoked me too write my first review. No Man’s Land is a truly wonderful film and well worth of its Oscar in 2002. The film skillful illustrates the folly of war by portraying a very human relationship so often missing in the slick Hollywood production. The hopeless of the situation is frequently punctuated with wonderfully delivered black humor. A must see!!
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on 29 November 2003
"No Man's Land" is a triumphant and dark satire with raw power that is both undeniable and mesmerizing. And that says a lot, being that I'm not the biggest fan of foreign films. The film is funny and tragic at the same time. Very rarely can you come across a decent movie that can successfully combine drama with comedy, let alone finding one that is superb. "No Man's Land" is indeed superb on all levels.
The film takes place during the horrific Bosnian-Serb conflict. In a strange turn-of-events, a Bosnian soldier ends up being trapped with a Serbian soldier in a trench (a wounded comrade of the Bosnian soldier is also in the trench). Both the Bosnian and Serbian sides refuse to help the two, so it's up to the UN to try to come up with a reasonable solution. Now, that would sound like a great idea, except the UN is portrayed as being extremely lazy and incompetent. While in the trench, the two armed soldiers have nothing to do but to wait for help... that is, if they don't kill each other first.
This is a unique film that is fresh and daring. Not a single boring minute went by during my whole viewing of the movie. It's tragic, and yet comical. The movie is able to work on every emotion, which is something that is very hard for a film to do successfully. While it is indeed a satire, the film does a good job of setting up the stage for the Bosnian-Serb conflict and gives us an idea of what was happening during that time. It's a film that will make you want to learn more about the conflict, which is something I highly recommend. After you read more about it, then watch the movie again and I guarantee you that you'll enjoy it a lot more the second time around.
The DVD is pretty standard, offering very little special features. The picture quality is crystal clear and the sound is great. The movie offers English, French and Spanish subtitles. Don't let the subtitles scare you, as they are extremely easy to read and follow. It's also easy to tell what's going on without reading too much into it. The only special feature available, aside from the subtitles, is the original theatrical trailer.
"No Man's Land" is an unforgettable experience that portrays a dark time in history. It is comical and sad at the same time. For somebody who isn't the biggest fan of foreign films, I must admit that I loved this movie. An interesting viewing, if you ask me.
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"No Man's Land," starring Branko Djuric as Ciki (pronounced Tcheeky) and Rene Bitorajac as Nino shows the pragmatics of war. These two men represent each side of the Serbian-Bosnian conflict.
Both are convinced that the other side started it, and later, both are convinced the other side is bombing them directly. Both learn of the injustices done in the name of war done by their own side.
The tension of the story is not the war, but the survival of three men, Ciki, Nino, and Cera (pronounced Tsera, played by Filip Sovagovic).
Ciki, a Bosnian, and Nino, a Serb, end up in a foxhole. Neither wants to be there, and both need the other to get out alive. They don't care about the other, even as they find some common ground like a former lover they each had. The war and its wage of death is the vault between them truly acknowledging the other's humanity, but they lean on each other awkwardly, but effectively to persuade the UN to save them, and Cera, also a Bosnian.
The trouble is that Cera lays upon a mine that will detonate when he moves. Naturally, then, he stays still. The fear of the mine blowing up provides the need for them to work toward a solution. With no obvious fix, they attract the UN, who are a mix of competent and incompetent, passive and intentional leaders. The UN's indecisiveness jeopardizes the soldiers, and their philosophical unwillingness to resolve the problem only exacerbates the anger between the soldiers.
It carefully stands away from the divisive, bitter fight, indicating that the both sides aren't pure in motivation. Each character is so far removed from whatever started the conflict, that any ending becomes a tragedy.
There are two sides to any war: those who are governing it, and those who are fighting in it. Within that war, among those fighting in it, are two more sides: those who believe in the fight, and those conscripted to be there. All are part of this movie.
"No Man's Land" shows that the Big Muddy, as Pete Seeger once sang of WWII, is not just in 1942 or Vietnam. In the trenches, as a force of war's reality, evil occurs. It is the default of war that men are asked to kill, and it is the default of man that the living will die.
I fully recommend "No Man's Land." For a look at a similarly powerful movie about the Irish conflict, see Daniel Day-Lewis and Emma Thompson in 1994's "In the Name of the Father."
Anthony Trendl
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on 26 November 2016
This is a fantastic movie on so many levels.

I like the idea - three men, enemies, trapped in No Man's Land, needing to work out a compromise in order to stay alive while they try and work out a solution to their dilemma. As the movie progresses we sense they could be friends if it weren't for circumstances. They find coincidental connections between their lives that seem to make nonsense of the different sides they find themselves on.

The languages are mainly Serbo-Croat with subtitles, as well as English or French when spoken by UN soldiers, journalists etc., Far from making the movie hard to follow, this touch adds real dynamism and realism to the plot, emphasizing the Tower-of-Babel like feel the many different interested parties, military task forces, militias, journalists and armies bring to the story.

****** SPOILER ALERT ******

They argue, almost to pass the time, and through their arguments we get some sense of what drove the war, and how each side believes its own propaganda (though I felt the director to be subtly on the side of the Bosnians).

We also see the uselessness of the UN, we start to wonder what the Smurfs (Blue Helmets) are there for at all as they seem to do all they can to avoid solving the problem if it clashes with their security or comfort. Some of them are 'professional' soldiers in the truest sense of the word, there for the career and money alone and not going to dirty their hands on actual work. Yet there are other UN soldiers, especially at lower ranks, who are motivated by idealism and the idea that their presence there ought to mean something. They are hampered by the career soldiers up the ranks. I suppose this gives us the directors nutshell view of the UN in Bosnia, probably accurate enough. I love the bit where the plummy-voiced British Col.Soft tells his aide-de-camp with a sigh "I need a helicopter" (he's going to have to get off his derriere and do some work outdoors) " - and a map, of Bosnia" (because he has never set foot outside the office and has no idea either literally or metaphorically, of the country). The director uses many subtle scenes like this to convey different perspectives of the war. Equally subtle was the scene with Serbian soldiers listening to the news about Rwanda on the radio and saying 'Oh, what's happening in Rwanda, it's messed up!' (but not noticing the mess under their own noses).

Then we see some other causes of the war - arms manufacturers: the bouncing mine placed under one of the men so he can't move is 'maad en the A OO" (made in the EU) as the Serbian soldier says as he reads it off the side of the mine while placing it. So here's the EU, sending its soldiers to police a war that would be that bit harder to fight in the first place were it not also selling armaments to the combatants. I don't know the accuracy of this scene in the movie (I thought most of the Serbian weapons anyway were from the JPLN - Yugoslav army - from Soviet days) but it's thought-provoking on a macro level.

The media comes in for a slating as well. It is a real circus, a whole convoy of vans sprouting satellite dishes arriving up when they smell a story. When the man trapped on a mine sees them drive off in the same swirl of dust at the end of the day, he knows he is literally doomed. The media have lost interest in him, off to the next story, he must be a dead man already. He pulls out a photo of his girlfriend - the only real thing that matters now that he knows he'll never see her again. Equally ambivalent is the hard-bitten journalist who won't take no for an answer and forces the UN to intervene. At first we think her an idealist trying to make a real difference through her job, but by the end we come to see her as yet another career soldier (ok, journalist) trying to make her name off the back of other people's misfortune, she, the saving guardian angel as long as they are of some use to her. Painfully accurate probably... Ironically, at the end her cameraman asks her if she'd like to get a few more shots of the trench, and she says 'no, a trench is a trench' and thus misses the biggest part of the story - that the man, supposedly rescued, is still on the mine.

Yet by the end of the movie what actually drives the two men, one Bosnian, one Serb, to pathological hatred and killing each other is something quite petty: not flag or country or ideals but the personal dislike one might encounter between two brawlers in a pub.

Growing up in Ireland, I've had to endure many cheesy, nauseating dramas about The Troubles in northern Ireland, and No Man's Land could easily have fallen into the same trap, but it doesn't. The director manages to give so many angles and insights into the Balkans conflict and the various actors involved through the story of these three men trapped in a trench. I've watched this movie many times with soldiers who served in EUFOR in Bosnia and they nearly always agreed it was a reasonably fair portrayal of many aspects of that war. They could certainly relate to many of the personalities & events portrayed.
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