Set during the war between Serbians and Bosnians in the 1990s, Angelina Jolie’s well-intended narrative feature directorial debut In the Land of Blood and Honey revolves around the queasy romance between a Serbian military leader and a Bosnian muslim woman. They meet before the war really gets going and are reconnected when she ends up imprisoned at a camp of which he is in charge. The result is an uncomfortable and only occasionally successful mix of world, cultural and sexual politics.

In part, In the Land of Blood and Honey is a weak hand slap to the United States for not intervening sooner in a war that led to genocide and 100,000 dead. Personally, I’m squeamish about the use of force whether it’s “humanitarian” or not and I find the pat assumptions the film makes about when and where to apply our military kind of appalling. Jolie compounds the problem by never really trying to explain or understand the nature of the conflict in the first place. Maybe that was not her mission. Perhaps she believes we should step in whenever there is ethnic strife regardless of the reasons or history behind it. Unfortunately there’s no ground upon which to argue with her because she never bothers to make a real case.

Somewhat more successfully, In the Land of Blood and Honey serves as another illustration of the horrors of war, in this case particularly a civil war and how in those cases women always seem to get the worst of it. It’s effective, but it’s territory we’ve visited many times before and much more powerfully. City of Life and Death is a terrific recent example. By comparison, Jolie’s film almost seems naive.

The real strength to In the Land of Blood and Honey involves the oddly compelling and deeply complicated sexual dynamics between the Muslim Alja and her captor/protector Danijel. Jolie relies heavily upon her actors Zana Marjanovi and Goran Kosti to help her navigate this emotionally charged territory and they’re terrific. They are cultural enemies yet they are lovers and it’s not even as clear cut as that. Is he just drawn to her because he can control her? Is she just drawn to him because he protects her? It’s the age old male/female power relationship exaggerated to an extreme and it is here that In the Land of Blood and Honey finds the energy that keeps it from being entirely dismissed.

Setting her story against the backdrop of the not-widely-understood Bosnian War probably seemed like a good idea at the time, and if the film had shown any real understanding of the war itself or had shown an interest in illuminating the conflict and/or the people fighting it, this could’ve really been something to see. As it is, the war and the politics feel like extraneous details that weaken rather than strengthen the more intimate story at the film’s core.

8 Responses to “In the Land of Blood and Honey (2011)”

  1. Other than the troubling subject matter, screenplay, and facile treatment of a profoundly complex web of issues, how was her direction? Are you curious to see if/what she’ll direct again?

  2. The whole thing seemed a little bit muddle, but i don’t know if that was a problem of direction or with the script or if external issues played a part. Since the acting was solid, she has to get some credit for that.

    I don’t know, to be honest.

  3. The message about the movie “The Land Of Blood And Honey”

    The kind of horror that happened to Serbs in Bosnia and elsewhere has been ignored since the beginning of the war. Serbian families were tortured beheaded and in many cases burned alive in the Orthodox Churches during this war and WW2. That fact that media ignored this fact during ’90. made the horrors even worse for all sides. Whoever suffered through this war wouldn’t like the hidden truth.

    That is why this is not an antiwar movie, at contrary this movie is creating tensions and the road to a new war. However, what brings hope is that this movies has very little popularity. Also, very little number of people knows what the movie is actually all about.

    Many of them think it is only a love story that has the taste of a bitter lemonade they do not want to try .
    So it’s why it is not surprising how little number of people wants to see it.
    Huge majority of them still do not know that movie is anti-Serbian and against the truth about women that were really raped and tortured and never mentioned by this self-proclaimed protector of women’s’ rights and the peace on earth, Mis Angelina Jolie.

    What do you think how does that Croatian, Serbian And Muslim women really feel when they see that you are showing the type of movie which looks like a combination of horror documentary love story on a wrong location. There is a Croatian Journalist that made a complain which does not sound only as copy rights lawsuit , but as a cry caused by unjustness, defamation and fear of faking the recent history .

    Also, how does the Serbian people and many of their friends feel when they hear that you are sending a wrong message that all the soldiers of Serbian origin , or at lees 99% of them, are rapist and murders. This is defamation of whole Serbian nation.

    Also , how does other women feel when rapists and murders of Bosniak Muslim and Croatian origin are going around free and sitting among them, unpunished.

    Well, who is stupid they know because they understand there is something very wrong with your intention to support the viewers to come and see the movie “The Land Of Blood And Honey”

    If you call this limited edition a potential success and hoping that I will send my emails about this movie around as an impulsive reaction to it, you obviously made a huge mistake. I decided for now not to send anything because I just want to keep you here at this level of earnings that this movie definitely deserves. This means that I will certainly not create a curiosity in people, and that way send them to see the movie while they are controlling themselves not to burn down your theatres .
    But, I will send them email after you are done with you presentation of lies . Then you can give her a golden globe or golden sh.t , as reward , if you like . I don’t give a damn anymore. Just don’t forget that nobody will be able to stop the pain you caused and that you will be faced with many unwanted reactions in a shape of tweets , facebook illustrations , placates and petitions that will occur as a tsunami, in the future. That is what people do when they are hurt.
    If I would be at you place I would just cancel the movie. We would appreciate that very much. Thank you in advance.

    Sincerely

    Somebody from some computer, somewhere.

  4. There is a huge anti-movie propaganda in Serbia, because Serbs think that nobody from Serbian side commited any crimes. Well, as a Serb, a must say that crimes have been commited in the name of my people, and I don’t have moral guts to deffend it! The movie is a love story, not a war story. Everyone should look it before posting comments. Yes, crimes such as this really happened in the Yugoslav wars, and we, Serbs must confont them in order to move on.

  5. Good film is „Saviour“ with Dennis Quaid, realistic.
    Well I would like to see one film in which the rapist is a Moslem and victim is Serb. If Mrs. Jolie needed theme for film she could have taken some from Vietnamise war, from Iraq, she as a humanitarian could have known what happened with women in the countries in which USA involved or started.

    Daniel is not Serbian name, she could have found some more propriet name at least, maybe she is still jelous of Jennifer Aniston who is of orthodox Greek origin. If Serbs are bad people why 100.000 Serbs left Sarajevo? It is disgusting how someone who is totally ignorant of the Balkan history takes as a theme the tragedy of the people who suffered a lot during the WWI and WWII and never had been genocide but a victim. On the territory of Serbia there have never been concentracion camp. The violent nation does not have 250.000 refugees from Bosnia and Croatia. Why she did not located film in Iraq and made a story about American soldier who raped Iraq women, it would have been more realistic. She could have taken the theme of Monika Lewinsky and Bill Klinton, Americans have their glorious history to take as a film theme.

  6. Stefan, nobody is that naive to believe you are a Serb. This trashy movie simply has nothing to do with reality. Im glad that most people dont care to watch this product of Angelinas sick imagination.

  7. The heaven nation is back. On all film critics sites is same story. Same propaganda like in war. Serbs is innocent but 150.000 Slovenien, Croatien and Bosnien people is just abortion, they have never been born.

  8. This movie can be watchable (maybe) for some people who has never been on Balcan and don’t know too much about it, but for me this is amateurish and superficial film.

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