Angelina Jolie’s writing and directorial debut “In the Land of Blood and Honey” is an incredibly powerful motion picture that will remain with you long after you have left the theater.
Needless to say, the Bosnian War that tore the Balkan region apart in the 1990’s is a sobering subject but it seems to reflect Jolie’s humanitarian efforts. Having said that, the movie does not make quite the historical impact that the actress-turned-filmmaker had likely hoped it would thanks to an inadequate amount of context with which her fictionalized story is balanced.
Goran Kostić and Zana Marjanović play Danijel and Ajla, two Bosnians from different sides of a brutal ethnic conflict. Danijel is a Bosnian Serb police officer while Ajla is a Bosnian Muslim artist. Though they were together before the war, the violence that has engulfed the country has changed their relationship.
Months later, Danijel is serving under his father, General Nebojsa Vukojevich (Rade Šerbedžija), as an officer in the Bosnian Serb Army. He and Ajla come face to face again when she is taken from the apartment she shares with her sister Lejla (Vanesa Glodjo) by troops under Danijel’s command. As the conflict takes hold of their lives, their relationship changes once again.
It is a bit strange that Jolie has managed to boil down a distinct piece of history into a story about a relationship that would likely be described on Facebook as, “It’s Complicated.” Granted, using history as a backdrop for fiction is not new. Just look at “Titanic” and “Pearl Harbor.” However, somehow the particular conflict in “In the Land of Blood and Honey” loses its distinction.
In other words, Jolie does not spend enough time showing us the environment in which her characters exist and instead cut right to the chase of how that environment tears said characters apart. As a result, “In the Land of Blood and Honey” could have been about any war in which genocide is the goal, thereby trading the viewer’s empathy with an entire group of people for empathy with two fictional characters.
Nonetheless, Jolie does not shy away from the horrors of war so it would be as unfair to call “In the Land of Blood and Honey” too Hollywood as it would be to call it an enjoyable experience. It is absolutely affecting and even entertaining, but this is not a fun film in any sense of the word. However, it is one that is well worth watching in spite of the fact that it will not win any awards.
“In the Land of Blood and Honey” (R – 127 minutes) is now playing exclusively at Harkins Camelview 5. Visit FirstLook.com for specific showtimes.