Angelina Jolie's debut behind the camera about 1990s Bosnian War stoked controversy during its production. An intimate, visceral melodrama specific to the ethnic/cultural divide is well-crafted by the politically active humanitarian actress interested in the toll from arguably some of the more horrific strife since World War II on innocent individuals.
In The Land of Blood and Honey stars Zana Marjanovic, Goran Kostic and Rade Serbedzija and "illustrates the consequences of the lack of political will to intervene in a society stricken with conflict"; it feels conflicted between love and war as its leads react to the hearts and souls of a society torn asunder.
Jolie finds the calamitous impact in a different approach to expressing how a conflict changes a relationship with tenuous, ambiguous allegiances. A beautiful, dark-coiffed Marjanovic is a Bosnian Muslim painter Ajla (like Ayla) ends up finding love one night at a nightclub with handsome Serbian cop Danijel (Kostic), leaving her sister Lejla (Vanesa Glodjo) and nephew.
What has struck around them (in places like Croatia) now explosively affects their lives (with motives bound to shift) as Bosnian men are slaughtered and women remanded to a camps. Serbedzija, a reliable international presence and the most recognizable actor here, has some words to say (providing historical context), as the macho General father of the initially fearful Danijel.
Daniel is one who oversees a camp where wartime vile abuse prevails, and presumably is out for the best interest of Ajla (including later giving her some supplies to keep her busy after a rescue when she flees to be with her sister) while others incarcerated around her rapidly become debilitated and demoralized.
The well-intended filmmaking calls attention to the sadism presumably inherent to such atrocities as the onlooker gets more of the ethnic cleansing treatment than in richer, more poignant cinema like Hotel Rwanda. The emotional and physical representations of the drama through committed, contrasting turns by (a Daniel Craig-like) Kostic and an affecting Marjanovic offers raw intensity with authenticity through native language.
An unconventional fairly apolitical (with the U.N. and U.S. on the fringes) portrait, however mesmerizing in certain passages, lacks effectual continuity and purpose through opposite tortured souls makes for extended landing in Blood and Honey.
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