"No Man's Land" a film by Danis Tanovic Review by Rosanna S. Lee
In this black comedy, filmmaker Danis Tanovic, depicts not only the insanity of war but also the absurdity of humanity as a whole.
"Who started the war?!" The two soldiers, Ciki, a Bosnian and Nino, a Serb were trapped in a trench between the enemy lines during the Bosnian war. Ciki has Nino at gun point. At first they started a conversation about the war. Both blaming the other side, finally at Ciki's gun point, Nino succumbed in admitting that the Serbs started the war. At this point, they both stuck in this no man's land, frightened and no one to trust. They can't escape the trenches without getting shot by both side. On top of that, a fellow soldier of Ciki is lying on top of a spring-load mine that will explode if he moves. No one can help them except a mediating team. This is when the UN comes in. Always with good intentions, the UN plays the good guy in a conflict without getting involved in the fighting.
This film clearly mocks how the rest of the world, represented by the UN, views a conflict without actually stopping it. The film also remarks on the human minds and their believes. It is not good and evil anymore but more of the justification of one's belief. Nino, a newbie to the war, probably a white collar who is naïve enough to introduce himself to his enemy, Ciki. We can see how Nino's character evolves as the film progresses within the time span of one day. Nino transformed from an innocent soul into a vindictive monster. Ciki, who is not an evil person but due to survival and vengeance, he has to hurt Nino. The real evil here is perhaps the rest of the world who just stand by and allow this ridiculous war to continue. Ciki and Nino could become friends, they even know someone in Nino's town. As the film continues, it actually sparkes a glimpse of hope in which the audience thinks that the two may become friends, just like Bosnia and Serbia. Wishful thinking, this film is not a fantasy. It portrays the reality. It also reveals the sad irony of war. None of the Serbs nor the Bosnians know what was going on until an absurd situation such as this occurred. It's no longer a game when it's beyond, in this case, between enemy lines, they have to call the referee. The UN's involvement in this war is to close one eye and open the other, avoiding to take sides unless necessary.
Tanovic wrote a very witty script where he intelligently places the character and location in a catch 22 situation. He captured a typical war scenario. Journalists seeking for the news of the day, racing to the hottest events. At least in this situation, the media helped a good-willed UN sergeant in proceeding the rescue mission in which his superior had demanded to retreat. The journalists and reporters were there to bring the spectacle to the rest of the world. Until a real tragic event happened, they realized the severity of the situation. The spectacle is gone and what is there for the UN to solve not only resolve itself but also never solve. Nino, Ciki and Ciki's comrade were never rescued. The last haunting shot of the film is an enlightenment to the meaning of war; a sad, lonely and hopeless place.
R.S. Lee January 2002