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In the Land of Blood and Honey (Blu-ray Review)

24 Mar, 2012 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Street 3/27/12
Sony Pictures
Box Office $0.3 million
$45.99 Blu-ray/DVD combo
Rated ‘R’ for war violence and atrocities including rape, sexuality, nudity and language.
Stars Zana Marjanovic, Goran Kostic, Rade Serbedzija.

If war is hell, then civil war is Satan’s perverse playground. How else to define the brutal conflict in the former Yugoslavia (now Bosnia and Herzegovina) during the early ’90s, when neighbors preyed on neighbors, women were raped with impunity and men and boys were slaughtered by the tens of thousands?

At a time before the Internet, in a region just 80 miles from the Italian border, ethnic genocide pitted Christian Serbs and Catholic Croats against Muslim Bosniaks — the latter representing 44% of Bosnia and Herzegovina after the breakup of Yugoslavia following the fall of communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.

Boldly, Angelina Jolie chose this backdrop to direct, write and produce In the Land of Blood and Honey — her first feature-length film behind the camera. Jolie, who has embraced the Bosnian conflict (among other global issues) for years, focuses the sad story in part on the women caught up in the inferno.

On the cusp of hostilities, Serbian policeman Danijel (Goran Kostic) is seen dancing with Ajla (Zana Marjanovic), a Muslim artist, in a nightclub. The budding relationship is shattered when a bomb rips through the club, killing many.

Flash forward a few years and Bosnia has become ground zero for intolerance, with Serbian forces taking a page out of Hitler’s playbook of atrocities. Apartments are systematically emptied of undesirables and leveled. Young males are taken away or shot on the spot. The attractive women are rounded up for sex — including Ajla.

Danijel, who heads a military unit under the auspices of his father, Serbian Gen. Nebojsa Vukojevich (Rade Serbedzija), commandeers Ajla to be his personal artist in an apparent effort to protect her — their relationship now more predicated on a shaky trust than love.

Compromised by the guilt of their actions, the son asks his father how history will judge their actions. Vukojevich responds that the conflict is simply a right for Serbia, repelling invading Turks centuries before, Hitler’s armies more recently, as well as comeuppance for past Muslim atrocities.

In other words, it’s a Hatfield-McCoy feud for the ages.

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