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In the Land of Blood and Honey (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 21, 2012 by  



“In the Land of Blood and Honey” is a powerful film that shows audiences the ugliness of war and a bold directorial/screenwriting debut for Angelina Jolie, who wanted to give a voice to victims of the war and also to create a film that reminds people that we should not repeat the atrocities of the past.  While the film does have its share of flaws and a romantic storyline that was unconvincing, “In the Land of Blood and Honey” is a war film that achieves its message through its visual, heartbreaking presentation.

Images courtesy of © 2011 GK Films, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: In the Land of Blood and Honey

FILM RELEASE: 2011

DURATION: 126 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio), Bosnian/Croatian/Servian 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English, English SDH,

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R (For War Violence and Atrocities including rape, sexuality, nudity and language)

Release Date: March 27, 2012

Written and Directed by Angelina Jolie

Produced by Tim Headinton, Angelina Jolie, Graham King, Tim Moore

Executive Producer: Holly Goline

Associate Producer: Simon Craine

Music by Gabriel Yared

Cinematography by Dean Semler

Edited by Patricia Rommel

Casting by Gail Stevens

Production Design by Jon Hutman

Art Direction by Zsuzsanna Borvendeg, Arwel Evans

Set Decoration by Anna Lynch-Robinson

Costume Design by Gabriele Binder

Starring:

Rade Servedzija as Nebojsa

Zana Marjanovic as Ajla

Goran Kostic as Danijel

Nikola Djuricko as Darko

Dzana Pinjo as Nadja

Branko Djuric as Aleksandar

Alma Terzic as Hana

Milos Timotijevic as Durja

Dolya Gavanski as Maida

Fedja Stukan as Petar

Ermin Bravo as Mehmet

Goran Jevtic as Mitar

In Angelina Jolie’s first film as a writer-director, she unfolds a tragic love story set against the backdrop of the Bosnian War. In a land where people of different cultures long lived in peace, there was a brief moment when love blossomed between Ajla, a Muslim artist, and Danijel, a Serb police officer. Then violence tore through the nation, pitting neighbor against neighbor. Now, Ajla has been taken prisoner — saved from the darkest horrors of war only by her captor, Danijel. As circumstances place them on opposite sides of the conflict, their relationship is ravaged by questions of loyalty and betrayal.

Outside of Hollywood, actress Angelina Jolie is known for her humanitarian work.

When the actress traveled to Bosnia and Herzegovina as a U.N. goodwill ambassador, the stories that she heard from people were heartbreaking, tragic but also enough for her to want to write a screenplay to show what happened to many Muslim Bosniak women during the Bosnian War (which lasted between April 1992 and December 1995 and took a long time for the international community to respond to reports of genocide in the region).

During the pre-production of “In the Land of Blood and Honey”, Jolie was consulting with U.S. diplomat and high-ranking Clinton Administration official Richard Holbrooke (one of the men responsible for crafting the Dayton Agreement which put an end to the Bosnian War), general Wesley Clark in regards to strategic plans and police and foreign correspondent Tom Gjelten.  But also studying the war and interviewing people in Bosnia.

Once the funding for a film complete, Angelina Jolie decided that she also wanted to make her directorial debut with this film.

The film was shot in Budapest and Esztergom and featured talent from various regions of former Yugoslavia and since these talents also had experiences during the war, she incorporated their experience also to the film. But the primary goal was to feature a Romeo & Juliet type of love story between a Serbian officer and a Muslim woman (held captive by Serb forces).

Before the film was made and after the film was made, because the pain of the war is still remembered by those who lived in the region at the time, the film was going to open up wounds but also upset groups who were depicted unfavorably.  While the film is technically written by Angelina Jolie, it’s important to note that this film was a script left open and modified daily as the cast and crew had their own personal experiences from the war and were incorporated into the film.

Despite the heavy criticism, “In the Land of Blood and Honey” was nominated for a Golden Globe for “Best Foreign Language Film” and was a winner of the PGA’s Stanley Kramer Award.

And now, “In the Land of Blood and Honey” will now be released on Blu-ray+DVD and DVD.   The film was shot in both the authentic language version which is presented with the authentic language version with English subtitles on Blu-ray, while the DVD has the English language version.

“In the Land of Blood and Honey” begins with an introduction of how Sarajevo was a city where many people of multi-ethnicities lived in peace.  Ajla (played by Zana Marjanovic) is a Bosnian Muslim woman who lives with her sister Lejla (played by Vanessa Glodjo) and her sister’s baby.

As Ajla goes to a dance club to hang out, she meets a Serbian police officer named Danijel (played by Goran Kostic).    The two enjoy their time together and dance the night away… until a bomb blows up inside the dance club and many are killed.  As Ajla and her sister try to pack things up and try to leave their apartment, hearing rumors that the Serbian forces are forcing people out of their homes.  It happens to them and the Muslim women, elderly and children are separated from the men.

The men are then slaughtered and the young women and teenage girls are then separated from the elderly and children and forced to be the captive prisoners of the Serbian forces who use the women for rape.

As the women are then being interviewed by the Serbian forces, we see Danijel remembering Ajla.  Danijel is a high ranking officer in the Serbian forces and the son of General Nebojsa (played by Rade Serbedzija).  We learn that Nebojsa has a hatred towards Muslims for what they did to the Serbian people long ago and because the Muslims are trying to force his people out of their country, the Serbian forces must respond by force.

As for Danijel, his encounter with Ajla has protected her from being raped by other soldiers (for the time being).

Meanwhile, back in the buildings of Sarajevo, we see Ajla’s sister Lejla suffering as well as the other Muslims in her building as the Serbians have cut off their water, food and medicine supplies as they are undergoing an ethnic cleansing campaign.  Anytime they see a non-Serbian, they shoot them.

But as Ajla’s sister has others watching her baby, while she goes to make a medicine run, unknown to her is that the Serbian forces have returned and have continued to round up now the elderly women and committing more crimes against everyone, including Lejla’s baby.  As Lejla and others are forced to relocate, back in the headquarters of the Serbian forces, the soldiers begin to have suspicions about Danijel because of how he is keeping a Muslim woman to himself.  Is he getting closer to a Muslim woman?

As Danijel tries to give opportunities for Ajla to escape from captivity, with many Serbian officers surrounding the area, will she be able too?  Especially now that she has fallen in love with him.

VIDEO:

“In the Land of Blood and Honey” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1).  The picture quality is excellent as its cool to warm colors manage to capture the bloody war.  There is a lot of detail when it comes to showcasing the tortured and raped women from showing them bruised and bloodied and I have to admit that the film captured the feel of devastation and dreariness thanks to the cinematography of Dean Semler (“Dances with Wolves”, “2012”, “Apocalypto”, “xXx”).

There is a lot of detail for “In the Land of Blood and Honey” on Blu-ray from the destroyed buildings and bricks littered everywhere,  the clothing, surroundings, the close-ups of the talent but once again, realistic imagery of those killed, raped and tortured.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“In the Land of Blood and Honey” is presented in Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian and English 5.1 DTS-HD MA.  The film features a lot of dialogue and a lot of music that are crystal clear via lossless through the front and center channels.  Composer Gabriel Yared’s  (“The Talented Mr. Ripley”, “Cold Mountain”, “The Lives of Others”) music also sets the stage for the emotional levels of the film.   But it’s the haunting sounds of people screaming and crying that you hear a lot through the surround channels and probably the sounds that I remember the most during my viewing of the film.  The sounds of people mourning, the sounds of people being shot and killed.

The audio really sets the stage of the feeling of fear and it’s a tragic, heartbreaking soundtrack to listen to.

It’s important to note that the film was shot in both the authentic language version which is presented with the authentic language version with English subtitles on Blu-ray, while the DVD has the English language version.

As for subtitles, the subtitles are presented in English and English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“In the Land of Blood and Honey” comes with the following special features:

  • Deleted Scenes – (16:15) Featuring eleven deleted scenes.
  • The Making of In the Land of Blood and Honey – (10:24) Angelina Jolie, the crew and cast talk about working in the film and how it affected cast members who lived through the war.
  • Q&A with Writer/Director Angelina Jolie and Actress Vanessa Glodjo – (1:02:03) Angelina Jolie and actress Vanessa Glodjo take part in an online chat Q&A.

EXTRAS:

“In the Land of Blood and Honey” comes with a Blu-ray and DVD version of the film.

“In the Land of Blood and Honey” was a film that was controversial since its inception and controversial after it screened in theaters.

First, I want to give Angelina Jolie credit first for taking on a film that is not easy to write or  direct.  For the actress who had traveled on many humanitarian missions, Jolie has mentioned many times of visiting countries were women were victims and the international community had done nothing.  The purpose of revising the Bosnian War was to represent many women who didn’t have a voice but also bring attention to a war that is still remembered by many who grew up during the ’90s and to show that brutality and ugliness of war so it never happens again.

Unfortunately, the film would prove to be difficult because there is no neutrality, there is no exploring of history between the religious war that had existed in the country for hundreds of years.  It’s a war film that Jolie chose a side and that was Muslim women were were taken to rape camps and were raped, tortured or killed by Serbian forces.  And also to show the genocide campaign to cleanse the area of Muslim Bosniaks, and unfortunately it doesn’t show the Serbians in any positive light as most of them in the film are seen as barbaric and people who are wanting revenge for the atrocities committed by the Muslims in the past (and of course, there is more to what started the war which one will probably want to do research after watching this film) and have no remorse of cleansing their land of them.  As well, as raping or abusing Muslim Bosniak women.

I am not an erudite on the Bosnian war, nor do I know what is accurate and what is not.  The film has received criticism for its inaccuracy of what happened to people as depicted in the film and some blaming Jolie for putting her own twist to it.  It is important to mention that this is not the case and each day of filming, she incorporated the war experience of the cast and crew in the film.   For example, the scene where Serbian soldiers were sniping at the Muslim people at “Sniper’s Alley”.  Actress Vanessa Glodjo said that when she attended a performing arts school, she had to run to school because snipers were shooting at people.

So, with that being said, a lot of people had their own experience of what they saw and what happened in their own personal experience.

“In the Land of Blood and Honey” obviously takes on a delicate issue and needless to say, everyone has their opinion of this film.  But this is a film that Angelina Jolie no doubt created to pay respects to the Bosnian Muslim victims of the Srebrenica genocide.  Although it was important for Jolie to include cast that were from different backgrounds and perspectives, the film tries little to be neutral as it leans towards the Muslim Bosniaks.  A lot of the Serbian soldiers were depicted as evil but there were some who had difficulty attacking people they knew of different ethnicity.

But for the motivation of the Serbians, despite showing a scene where General Nebojsa explains what the Muslims have done to the country and to his family and the Serbian people.  It’s not easy trying to capture a war on both sides but even when you can try, we have seen filmmakers who have achieve such efficacy such as Gillo Pontecorvo’s “The Battle of Algiers”.  But of course, the motivation is different.  Jolie’s goal was to give the women who were victims a voice but also to show the brutality of a war that many people still remember, but to remember it and hope it never happens again.

And in one sense, part of me felt that Jolie was a brave soul in order to bring this heartbreaking film about what happened during the Bosnian War to the big screen.  In fact the head of the association of mothers of Srebrenica massacre victims spoke out against the film at first but after she watched the final film, she felt the movie was “excellent” and thanked Jolie for creating a film that was objective and sincere.

The problem that I had with the film is in regards to it’s “Romeo & Juliet” love story between a female Muslim prisoner and a Serb officer.  For one, you get a film that shows the atrocities of war.  Jolie was trying to create an art and war film but it’s hard to create such a film when you leave the audience feeling disgusted or heartbroken by seeing genocide taking place and the film then goes back to the relationship that these two have and you wonder if there is any closure that anyone can have towards the end of the film.

Jolie managed to capture the ugliness of war with her film but I felt to have a love story incorporated and then seeing the female protagonist Ajla being beaten, raped and seeing her in such a way, I was hoping there would be some closure.  Nevertheless, “In the Land of Blood and Honey” featured a dark love story within a tragic and heartbreaking environment that I started to lose interest in the actual relationship.

I suppose I was hoping to see a war story that evolved from a doomed romance, rather a doomed romanced shaped by war.  In some way, the film reminded me of Gillo Pontecorvo’s 1960 film “Kapo”, in the sense that the romantic drama weakened the plot, nor was it convincing.

I do respect Angelina Jolie for making her writing and directing debut and giving viewers a female point-of-view of the atrocities that happened during the Bosnia War.  Rarely do you see female directors taking on such a powerful and emotional war film, especially one that was going to receive a lot of criticism.

But with all the heaviness and ugliness of war, it’s hard to build a romance around it, especially between a Serbian officer and his Muslim captive.  It’s not a convincing relationship and while it’s based on the people she interviewed, others who lived during the war have come out and said there were significant flaws in the film and the film was unbalanced.

Overall, “In the Land of Blood and Honey” is a powerful film that shows audiences the ugliness of war and it is no doubt a bold directorial/screenwriting debut for Angelina Jolie, who wanted to give a voice to victims of the war and also to create a film that reminds people that we should not repeat the atrocities of the past.

While the film does have its share of flaws and a romantic storyline that was unconvincing, “In the Land of Blood and Honey” is a war film that achieves its message through its visual, heartbreaking presentation.






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