When you’re stuck in No Man’s Land, you don’t have many options. The same can be said for two people who hate each other, forced to depend on the other for survival. And thus is the premise for a film that takes a funny, but mostly realistic, view of the Bosnian War, circa 1993.
Written and directed by Bosnian filmmaker Danis Tanovic, No Man’s Land brings the viewer on a bleak yet fascinating voyage straight to a dead-end sign.
Just as Vladimir and Estragon wait for hope in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, Ciki (Branco Djuric) and Nino (Rene Bitorajac) find each other in a trench between the Serbian/Bosnian border. The catch here is Ciki wants back on the Bosnian side, and Nino wants to be reacquainted with his fellow Serbs.
Lost and trapped after a group of Bosnian soldiers’ search goes awry, the wounded Ciki realizes his search for a way out is futile. At one point, he risks getting shot by crawling out of the trench in quest of a light for his cigarette. Soon, two Serbian soldiers unwittingly join him as they check the trench for signs of life. When Ciki gets the courage to start shooting, he kills one and wounds the other. Ciki keeps Nino around because he realizes his new captive is his only chance of staying alive.
The politically motivated plot eventually involves an ambitious reporter and a desperate U.N. official, but not before the two soldiers discover they are in an even worse predicament than they originally imagined.
At its heart, No Man’s Land is about clinging to survival in the face of the notion that survival is delusive. It’s a small film that pits two characters in a fruitless position that is more representative of the Bosnian War than any news report on television.
Bits of comedy, such as childish bickering between the two main characters about whose side started the war, allow the viewer to stay objective as neither character is portrayed as the protagonist.
More laughter comes when U.N. officials, a.k.a. “Smurfs,” are called in to mediate the debacle. This subplot is where the real statement of the film comes into play. Sergeant Marchand (Georges Siatidis) is the conflicted peacekeeper whose orders contradict his morals as he realizes his hands are tied in a situation that could be handled if politics weren’t in the way.
No Man’s Land, billed as a satirical drama, never produces an outright punch line or a false sense of dramatic tension. Yet, it effectively conveys its message through a morality play that rarely tires or strays from its point.
- Only playing at Channelside Cinemas