Tuesday, November 01, 2005

No Man's Land

2002 Oscar Winner Best Foreign Language Film

Dir: Danis Tanovic

Slovenia won an Oscar. Yep. Didn't deserve it, but they won it.

No Man's Land succumbs to the tempatation to be self important. The premise is great. In a trench between the lines of Bosnian and Serbian forces, three soldiers are caught. The Serbian has booby-trapped the corpse of a Bosnian by laying him on top of a land mine; except, he isn't dead. When he comes to, the soldier's are faced with the consequences of war and their own ethnic hatred. So long as the film dwells on this issue, it is very interesting if not brilliant.

But, then the film wants to make a point. The UN is called in to deal with the situation, and suddenly a dark comedy breaks out. The French won't get involved for fear of provoking one side or the other. The British UN General is more concerned about PR than lives. And a Christiane Amanpour stand-in is there to turn the trench into a media circus. All of this satire is rather heavy handed and simplistic, and not funny enough to warrant the comedic turn of what had started out as a good metaphor for the dissolution of a country. Contrast the critique of contemporary humanitarian military intervention in this movie with Black Hawk Down; no contest on sophistication or appropriateness.

It is odd to see Oscar reward a film for this kind of politics. The UN comes off as not interventionist enough, unwilling to get involved for fear of taking a side. But what is the implied alternative? More assertiveness, maybe (gasp) actually acting against genocide (which is very vaguely referenced in the movie's first half)? The movie leaves that question open, and I wonder if the supporters of this movie are willing to really comtemplate the answer.



Blogger ronvon2 noted on 11/02/2005 10:58:00 AM that...

I too disliked the dark comedy turn. It sustained a great deal of tension up till then. I think giving the Oscar to this film was more of an endorsement of Bosnia than the politics (although I think the Bosnians would endorse greater UN acitivism).