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NO MAN'S LAND

Black humor might be the only way to deal with such disasters of history as the Serbian/Bosnian bloodbath. It works in Bosnian director Danis Tanovic's allegorical No Man's Land, lifting the film when it threatens to sink into cliché, contrivance, or sentimentality.

A Bosnian member of a relief squad lost in the fog puts it best when he muses that the difference between a pessimist and an optimist is that the latter knows things can get worse. Sure enough, the fog lifts and the squad is looking at the muzzles of the Serbian front line. Tchiki (Branko Djuric) escapes to an abandoned trench in no man's land between the two armies, where he's joined by Nino (Rene Bitorajac), the survivor of a Serbian party sent in to scope out the situation. The conflict between murderous enmity and mutual survival à la Hell In the South Pacific isn't made any easier by the presence of a third soldier whose body lies on top of a pressure-activated mine, or by the arrival of UN troops and TV trucks. All this makes for a sardonic microcosm, but Tanovic's focus drifts from the delicate interplay between Tchiki and Nino, and that defuses the emotional impact. At the Avon.

By Peter Keough

Issue Date: February 22 - 28, 2002