In Danis Tanovic’s No Man’s Land the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina is transformed into a Beckett endgame. Ciki (Branko Djuric) and Nino (Rene Bitorajac) are Vladimir and Estragon, trapped in a trench between Bosnian and Serbian lines. There they wait for Godot, who comes in the form of United Nations Unprofor troops sent to diffuse a bouncing bomb waiting to explode beneath Ciki’s badly injured comrade, Cera (Filip Sovagovic). No Man’s Land feels entirely too easy to deserve its comparison to Altman’s M*A*S*H and Kusturica’s Underground. Ever since Bergman celebrated Death’s fascination with board games in The Seventh Seal, the chessboard has become an egregious cinematic metaphor (see The Last Castle for the worst-case scenario). At the UN High Command in Zagreb, Colonel Soft (Simon Callow) learns of Ciki and Nino’s plight while playing the king’s game with his secretary. More obvious is Ciki and Nino’s Catch-22 plight. From their “we’re equal now” shtick to the communication barriers faced by the Unprofor troops and a pack of aggressive reporters (yes, we all become war humanitarians in moments of high drama), Tanovic’s war-is-futile commentary is shamelessly apolitical. Tanovic’s UN cares as much for the trio of trenched soldiers as Spielberg’s US government did for one mother’s missing Ryan. The film’s feel-bad conclusion is startling only in the sense that it’s the only logical checkmate to an otherwise transparent game of Risk. If you take Tom and Jerry out of a ready-to-blow Beckett sphere, the cat/mouse animosity remains. No Man’s Land may end with an honest blip yet its history is remiss. So what if Ciki and Nino speak the same tongue? War isn’t absurd if the cat has reason to hate the mouse, although you’ll never know why by watching this film.
- 98 min
- Danis Tanovic
- Danis Tanovic
- Branko Djuric, Rene Bitorajac, Filip Sovagovic, Simon Callow, Georges Siatidis, Serge-Henri Valcke, Katrin Cartlidge
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