Angelina Jolie, star extraordinaire, deserves an A for effort in directing In the Land of Blood and Honey. Not only does she care about the war-torn ex-Yugoslavia she shows but she throws herself fully into the making of the film. Red carpet photo-op and possible awards don’t seem part of the equation. This is a serious story told in as professional and honest a manner as possible.
But the end result? A “C plus”–maybe . It may not be Jolie’s fault, probably raised on regular movie fare, that we reduce to its simplest line any narrative of strife, whether ethnic or religious (both aspects are at play in the Balkans).
After Shakespeare, saying anything new or profound on reasons, motivations, consequences, on what drives men to kill other men and rape women, or on the politics and abuse of power is a hard row to hoe. In Land, the improbable romance between the Christian officer Danijel (Goran Kostic) and Muslim captive Aja (Zana Marjanovic) comes, as the French would call it, like a hair on soup, leaving one to wonder both why the director added it to the mix and what other cement would have held together this close but repetitive look at a horrendous civil war.
As public, we’ve seen too many war movies and heard about too many actual stories of atrocity. More blood and more violence will not shake us. We no longer deal in generalities. It takes a highly focused story (The Hurt Locker or Inglourious Basterds come to mind) to jolt us into tense awareness. Or else we’re happy digging in our popcorn bucket, watching a mindless big-screen movie, say Troy.
In the Land of Blood and Honey, both clichéd and earnest, neither entertains nor makes us ponder the meaning of the total waste of life in conflicts soon forgotten and replaced by new ones.