In the Land of Blood and Honey
I feel like the Bosnian war is unclear to many Americans. Myself included. It was, by all accounts, a very complex issue. But for Angelina Jolie, it isn’t. And she makes her point of view very clear throughout In the Land of Blood and Honey. To the point of sacrificing artistry. She perhaps just should have made a documentary. And since the film only grossed $300,000, perhaps more people would have watched it. I had a hard time getting excited about the project, despite carrying a torch for Ms. Jolie, but believe it or not, it was Clint Eastwood that changed my mind. He interviewed her for Interview magazine, and was full of praise for his former cast member. There was certainly confident direction, and she deserves credit for bringing such a misunderstood conflict to the masses–er–the roughly 30,000 who saw it. She did write and direct the movie, and avoided casting herself in the lead role.
The story follows a Serbian officer named Danijel (Goran Kostic) and a muslim woman Ajla (Zana Marjanovic). They meet briefly in a carefree moment at a discotheque the night before the war breaks out, seeding what would turn into a romance. But since he’s a Serbian Christian, and she’s a hated Muslim, they are of two different worlds, that should not mix. According to Jolie, part of the mass horrors conducted by the Serbs, there were ritualistic rapings. And at one point, Ajla is placed in a room to service Danijel by chance. They begin a sordid romance that seems vaguely offensive as he was originally her rapist. But motivations will constantly be questioned, she is a prisoner of war, and he her captor.
Ajla is a painter, she even has work in a local museum. To protect her, Danijel makes her the official artist of the Serbian Army, and things go well, until Danijel’s father and superior officer, the menacing Rade Serbedzija, finds out about the tryst. And as war tends to do, things don’t end up well.
It is clear how Ms. Jolie feels about the conflict, and she clearly has a passion for women affected during war. It’s horrible watching them be brutally raped and humiliated in front of each other, or to be used as human shields in a standoff. And as I mentioned, she deserves to be commended for her efforts. But in making the film about the war, and not about the characters, she sacrificed an artist vision that the film could have great benefited from. That being said, I was surprised at the confidence in her directing, and I think that were she to be given a script that she didn’t write and wasn’t so close to, she could have a future as a director. Although, I’d always prefer her to be in front of the camera.