Bosnia, 1992: right before the war starts, Ajla (Zana Marjanovic) and Danijel (Goran Kostic) are on a date and they get along just fine. But then they suddenly find themselves on opposite sides of the war: as a Muslim, Ajla is abducted and interred, while Danijel becomes a rather high ranking Serb soldier who happens to oversee the camp where Ajla is imprisoned. He tries to protect her but in such a situation, the motives of everyone become a bit shady.
In the Land of Blood and Honey is obviously a movie with a message and a mission but it manages to not let that take over. There are moments where you get to feel Jolie’s inexperience when it comes to directing, but altogether it’s a decent debut film.
I’m not sure whether I learned much about the war in Bosnia from this film, but what Jolie manages to capture perfectly are what screwed up power dynamics will do to a relationship. I really “enjoyed” how she let those play out: Danijel really does want to protect Ajla, but he’s also piqued by the power he holds over her. Ajla does give in to him, but it’s clear that the choice she has in the matter isn’t really a choice at all.
And what the film also shows nicely is that in a war nobody is a hero and nobody wins. In the end everybody betrays themselves and/or somebody they love; everybody loses something and everybody sucks a bit (or a bit more).
But of course, it’s not easy to pull off a film where everybody sucks a bit. You want somebody to relate to after all. I don’t think that the script on its own would have managed that, but both Zana Marjanovic and Goran Kostic do. Marjanovic maybe a little more successfully than Kostic, but not by much.
Something is missing in the movie, though. Something to make this movie really great, something that makes one excited about it. If only I knew what exactly it was…
Summarising: It’s okay.