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This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Friday, June 14, 2013

In the Land of Blood and Honey

Angelina Jolie's (shades of Ashley Judd) world-wide humanitarian work suggests the moral weight and experience needed to attack such subject matter for your directorial debut. It has received many accolades including from those directly involved in the conflict. Some mixed reviews, some were turned off.   Overall, it is an impressive effort, underlining that along with the beauty, she is very talented and a serious artist. 

I admit to finding the captive sister lead a bit too passive and turning it off half-way.  A hour or so of the film gave you the idea of the situation, which perhaps suggests a flaw or my short attention span.  But, it is well acted, shows the horror of war and an impressive debut. As some of the reviews note, the complexities of the story and relationship has various connotations, but again Ajla's passive character (which has plot implications, but still didn't like it dramatically) bothered me. Her sister, who had her own horrors to face, was a more engaging character.  As to the captor, who falls in love and (selectively) protects her, the film bravely perhaps makes him a more active character, that is, he is often the focus of the plot. This humanization of evil, so to speak, is a valuable technique.*

I saw the English version (the only one available on the DVD), but (adding to the skill) a native language version was also filmed. There is a "making of" feature but the Q&A is only available with on the Blu-Ray disc, which I do not have. For some reason, it took awhile for my library to receive the film, so I was constantly checking to see if it was there yet. Glad to finally receive it, even if not totally satisfied.  One more thing: it has potential to be shown to high school students.


* The film has multiple "gotcha" moments. A few cases involve innocents being killed (one foreshadowed almost cruelly) are particularly notable,. There are also non-lethal (except in the soul destroying fashion) to underline the horrors of the conflict. One early on involves a solider at a concentration camp asking an incoming group of women if anyone good cook -- not a "crap" cook, mind you.  This led to a few trying to show they were useful, including one saying she could sew.

To put her in her place, the guard grabbed her, asked her if she could "fuck," and raped her in front of the rest.  Rape a particularly well used tool of war, including the "benefit" of impregnating the women, something particularly notable in an ethnically divided conflict. This suggests perhaps the value of the passiveness of the Muslim captive, even if dramatically it did not keep my interest, which is not the most important thing on some level, but it is to the degree this is still a film. 

The means used by our "hero" to protect someone was to tell others he "owned" her, a degrading matter that upset at least one reviewer (when there is signs of her falling in love), but note they were together before she was captured and as another review (both linked above) noted, the complexity of the situation is apparent.  Such is skill of the film.

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