Danis Tanovic, No Man’s Land (Bosnia, 2001).
Danis Tanovic in No Man’s Land not unlike Underground aims to expose the absurdity of the Yugoslavian civil wars of the 1990s. However, No Man’s Land also incorporates the uselessness of the UN in the affair.
The UN is represented as totally ineffective and altogether unhelpful. Furthermore, the media circus that surrounded the war only interfered and made things far worse still. The peace troops only stand on the sidelines and observe, detached. Even in trying to resolve the situation of the soldiers stranded in a trench between lines, they get absolutely no good done at all but only, instead, aid the media in further interference and exploitation. Even worse, all three of the soldiers that they came to rescue die anyway.
The horrible situation that the film centers around, coupled with the remote uselessness of the people that it attracts, gives the overall effect of a powerfully bleak absurdism. This can be seen in that the two main soldiers, caught in the trench, represent the greater sides that are involved in the conflict. They hate each other and are mortal enemies and apparently do not even know why. All they can do is angrily ask each other why they started the war. They even share common backgrounds. They refer and allude to the life they used to have before the war and obviously long for it nostalgically. When one evokes the memory of a woman he used to know it turns out that the other also used to know her. For a moment they share a laugh. This is an indication of how close each side had lived to one another before the war. It is an allusion to the stark absurdity that things could ever get quite so bad. The lines, from each side, run back into their pasts, so close to one another. These two were so close to one another that they even knew the same girl, and now they want only to murder each other.
The uselessness of the UN peace troops is best illustrated in the only bit of music that is heard throughout the film. When the German mine expert arrives to try and save the man that can’t move for the mine beneath his body there suddenly starts a techno, electronica type song, actually resembling European, especially German, dance-techno music. However, the song seems to clash with the imagery, its up beat and dancy, but the situation is tense and slow moving. It is also surprising to the spectator because the film has no music in other scenes. In this moment it is quite alarming for it to suddenly begin. However, just as suddenly as it begins the audience learns that the music is diagetic, in fact emanating from the headphones that one of the UN troops is wearing. He suddenly has to remove them to listen to a superior. This sequence, short though it is, most powerfully illustrates the UNs absence from the situation at hand, their remoteness. Though they are physically present they don’t really have any care at all as to what is occurring.
Also interesting to mention is the contrast throughout the film of the long, peaceful, beautiful, panoramic nature shots of the natural landscape and the violent brutality of what is occurring within.