No Man’s Land (2001) An Outstanding War Satire

Danis Tanovic’s No Man’s Land is without any doubt one of the best war movies I have ever seen. The actors are outstanding, the story is different and manages perfectly to convey the tragic absurdity of war. It also very funny, unless you have never heard of black humor or satire.

The movie starts with a group of Bosnian soldiers on their way to the front, bickering and teasing each other and lost in the darkness and the fog. They try to find the way for a while but it’s useless. After some more bickering and sharing of cigarettes, they stop and go to sleep. Horror on horror, when they wake up they realize they are in between the front lines and very close to the Serbs. The fun is definitely over now and as soon as they start to run, the Serbs open fire. Ciki is catapulted by an explosion into an empty foxhole, in the middle of No Man’s Land.

He hides in the foxhole until two Serbian soldiers arrive to investigate if there are any enemies around. They find Cera, who has also been catapulted into the foxhole and, thinking he is dead, they booby-trap his body.

After a while they finally discover Ciki who shoots one of the two Serbs. Two enemies are now trapped in between their lines, together with a unconscious man, attached to a mine, whose every move could make the thing explode.

What follows is one of the most comic farces I have ever seen. Trapped in between enemy lines, they start to quarrel and fight, all the while the poor Cera moans because he needs to go to the toilet, is uncomfortable and thirsty, wants a fag… Ciki keeps on asking him if he is OK which is, considering the circumstance, in a grotesque way funny as well.

A lot of the humor stems from the dialogue. Although they find themselves in the most dire circumstances they still argue and quarrel like a family at the Sunday dinner table; petty grievances, teasing, sulking, all included. Considering they might end up being killed it’s tragically comic. On top of that, the three are really endearing characters.

The movie also criticizes once more the inefficiency and cynicism of high command and the ultimate uselessness of the UNPROFOR troops who, as usual, aren’t allowed to do anything. On top of that a group of sensation-seeking journalists appears and makes matters worse.

Both camps send people into the foxhole which becomes a sort of neutral zone. Journalists are there, de-mining experts, UN troops and what not. Everybody wants to give their opinion, no one is capable of helping.

If you want to know whether poor Cera will be saved, you will have to watch the movie.

No Man’s Land is outstanding and manages like not many to make a very profound anti-war statement.

One word of caution: Should you just have stopped smoking you shouldn’t watch this movie. I have hardly every seen such a lot of smoking going on in any movie. Even a lifelong non-smoker like myself started to feel a certain urge after a while.

I almost forgot to mention that No Man’s Land is a Bosnia & Herzegovina/FR/IT/Slov/UK/BE co-production.

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6 thoughts on “No Man’s Land (2001) An Outstanding War Satire

  1. warmoviebuff says:

    Were you referring to anyone in particular in your third sentence?

    It does sound hilarious – two bitter enemies at each other’s throats while a guy with a bomb under him cannot go to the bathroom for fear of blowing himself up. LOL!

    • No, I wasn’t thinking of any one in particular. I read a few reviews who didn’t get the comical aspect. But it is decidedly meant as a satire and the definition of a satire is to show absurdity in giving serious things a comic twist. And yes, it is funny that although they face death, they still bicker. It’s not your type of humor.

      • warmoviebuff says:

        Don’t get me wrong, it is a very good movie regardless of whether you get the humor or not. I highly recommend it and especially for Americans who do not have a clue about this war. It is excellent in portraying the UN peacekeeper role and is spot on in its cynicism about the role of the media.

  2. tuulenhaiven says:

    This sounds good. I definitely want to track it down.

  3. […] Djuric and Rene Bitorajac. Bosnia/France/others, 2001.) After reading one of Caroline’s excellent reviews I tracked this film down. A darkly funny movie about the day-to-day foolishness of war, it places […]

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