Release: Friday, December 23, 2011
If nothing else, In The Land Of Blood And Honey is a long slideshow of violent periods in European history. While it focuses on the Bosnian conflict of the early 1990s, specifically the chaotic Siege of Sarajevo (1992), it barely rises to be anything more than a bloody documentary on the discussion. Scenes are spliced together with the quickness of a bullet from its shell, a tactic that simultaneously accents the lack of sensitivity in all of this, and loses the audience just as effectively.
I cannot afford to let Jolie off the hook too easily, she has starred in enough movies at this point to know what separates attention-feeding from attention-dismissing. Through the endless scenes of rampant violence it slowly becomes more and more of a chore to watch this film. There are only sprinklings of acting throughout, and its hardly dialogue-driven. Not that it had to be. It’s purpose here is expository, not the development of even its most central characters. Indeed, the movie’s pivotal scene is at the very beginning: the main characters Danijel (Goran Kostic) and Ajla (Zana Marjanovic) having a romantic night out at a club when a bomb detonates, destroying the entire scene in an instant. From there, its virtually all blood and no honey.
I was every now and again reminded of the film Blood Diamond, a statement on the inherent problems with diamonds from war-ravaged African countries. Those reminders only had the shock caused by graphic scenes of torture in common. Plots and everything else, obviously, were different. I just remember feeling the same, disconcerted and completely hopeless in my seat as I watched woman after woman getting raped and humiliated by the Serbs. I owe my discomfort to Jolie. The most poignant aspect of the film is that there often is not enough commentary on non-soldiers and non-prisoners of wars. Where the cameras go here, it is safe to say, is an emotional low that many journeys have yet to visit.
When you get away from all that, however, you have a problem. Scenes in which Bosniak and Serbian attacks weren’t being accurately dissected were boring and not engaging enough to recover from said attacks. There’s a fragmented relationship between Muslim Ajla and Serbian Danijel but it truly never develops; in fact it was practically stunted from the get-go. Every now and then there would be a redeeming moment, enough for you to come to grips with the seriousness of Jolie’s purpose, and for you to appreciate (for lack of a better word) the realities of living during wartime.
Reiterating, I will rate Blood and Honey‘s violence scale thus. During another random sweep of apartment blocks in Sarajevo, some Serbian ruffians explode through Ajla and her sister’s unit, and in an unexplained instance, punish the sister by dropping her infant child from the second-story window.
That may be all you need to know about Jolie’s debut into filmmaking. The choice should be yours to decide if it is going to continue. My vote is yes, but I advise her to keep her vision together a bit more next time. It all fell apart for me as the weight of the untold horrors grew heavier, to the point where I was convinced the director fully intended for us to not forget one second of the suffering.
That’s why there was such little payoff , and such little triumph, for both Danijel and the audience come time to roll credits.
Recommendation: I would NOT do what I just did: pick it up on a whim from your local Wal-Mart with the intent being its your nighttime enjoyment. This is a heavy movie, with very real damage to be potentially done to anyone who isn’t prepared. A vast majority of the time, a movie’s purpose is to provide entertainment. Not sure if we receive that In The Land Of Blood And Honey; it may just be an outlier.
Running Time: 126 mins.
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Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com