Thursday, January 12, 2012

In the Land of Blood and Honey

"In the Land of Blood and Honey" is the writing and directorial debut for Angelina Jolie. The title of the film comes from the Turkish translation for the geographical area of the Balkans, Europe, which is where Bosnia and Herzegovina is located. In Turkish "Bal" means "honey" and "Kan" means "blood". The attention to detail by Angelina Jolie didn't stop with just the title as she chose Dean Semler as the director of photography, which contributes to the amazing visual and sweeping landscapes that give the film its backbone.

The film is set during the Bosnian War, where Danijel (Goran Kostic), a soldier fighting for the Serbs, re-encounters Ajla (Zana Marjanovic), a Bosnian who's now a prisoner in the war camp he is in charge of. The film doesn't shy away from the war crimes that took place including the brutal sexual assaults of the women in addition to the mass murders. The story is almost a reverse version of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" with the forbidden relationship at the center of the story. Danijel is the son of General Nebojsa (Rade Serbedzija) who commands him to end the relationship. Danijel struggles with the harsh realities of the war while trying to please his father and a woman that caught his attention before the war began. The story spans the three year duration of the war and shows the lengths both sides of the war would take.

The leading performances from Goran Kostic and Zana Marjanovic are brilliant. The chemistry they shared was realistic and the difficult positions both are put in through the story comes through with the emotions that each demonstrate in their face. The performance from Rade Serbedzija was equally impressive in a supporting role and quickly reminded me of how easily he steals the screen in other films like "X-Men: First Class" and "Snatch". Like so many of the others in the cast, Rade Serbedzija is from Yugoslavia and contributes to the realistic emotion of the film in a way that couldn't be delivered by actors from other countries.

The popular acceptance of the film will likely be diminished by the use of sub-titles, however I hope that I can encourage people to see the film. With so few cinematic representations of the Bosnian War, it is important to remember the people impacted by the events. I would like to thank Angelina Jolie for taking on such a difficult task and with her first attempt she honestly hit a home run and exceeded many of my expectations. This film is very deserving of a foreign language nomination and a 5 Quack rating.

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