Reviewer's Rating 4 out of 5  
No Man's Land (2002)

A virtuoso black comedy about the Bosnian conflict circa 1993, writer-director Danis Tanovic's Oscar-winning film displays something of the wit of Joseph Heller's "Catch-22", while also echoing that book's frankness about the absurdities of war.

One fine summer's morning, a Bosnian relief patrol wakes up to find itself between the frontlines. Only one man, Ciki (Djuric), survives the subsequent turkey shoot, hiding in a trench in no man's land, where he is soon daggers drawn with Nino (Bitorajac), a naïve Serb recruit sent to find him.

There is also the small matter of Ciki's supposedly dead colleague Cera (Sovagovic), who regains consciousness having been laid on a booby-trapped landmine. Very reluctantly, the two enemies work together to resolve Cera's situation.

Much of the action takes place within the trench, as Tanovic contrasts the grim situation with a pastoral idyll of sunny skies and chirruping grasshoppers.

But he does expand focus through a French UN soldier (Siatidis), hampered by orders not to get involved, and Katrin Cartlidge's nosy TV news reporter.

Some nice humour comes at the expense of the UNPROFOR peacekeepers, with the blue-helmeted troops (known locally as Smurfs) failing to find anyone who can speak French, while the senior officers are more interested in covering their backs than conflict resolution.

Crucially, although Ciki is the one we identify with initially, he is soon seen as just as warped by events as Nino, their arguments about who started the war being won mainly by who has the rifle at the time.

Even the discovery that they once knew the same girl offers only a brief respite from mutual hatred, and Tanovic displays a clear-eyed, if depressing, lack of sentimentality throughout.

In Serbo-Croat with English subtitles.

End Credits

Director: Danis Tanovic

Writer: Danis Tanovic

Stars: Branko Djuric, Rene Bitorajac, Filip Sovagovic, Georges Siatidis, Simon Callow, Katrin Cartlidge

Genre: Drama, World Cinema

Length: 97 minutes

Cinema: 17 May 2002

Country: Bosnia-Herzegovina/Slovenia

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