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Blu-ray Review In the Land of Blood and Honey Blu-ray Review (1 Viewer)

Richard Gallagher

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In the Land of Blood and Honey, Angelina Jolie's directorial debut, is an intense but flawed look at the brutal combat and ethnic cleansing which took place following the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991. Jolie, who also wrote the screenplay, elected to make it a personal narrative which focuses on two characters. Ajla (Zana Marjonovic) is a young, beautiful Muslim woman and Danijel (Goran Kostic) is a Serb policeman/soldier. Jolie's decision is understandable because the events which led to the conflict are exceedingly complex and a detailed exposition would be a film unto itself. Yugoslavia itself was formed in 1929, broke up during World War II, and was reconstituted when the Nazis withdrew from the area in 1944. The post-war Yugoslavia was made up of six republics - Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Slovenia. Bosnia and Herzegovina, which were handed over to Croatia by the Nazis, had by 1992 become a single republic.  Ethnic animosities had largely been kept in check during the decades of Communist rule, but nationalist fervor was always percolating under the surface. Serbs, Croats and Muslims had been living together peacefully, but when Yugoslavia came apart long-suppressed animosity began to lead to violence.





In the Land of Blood and Honey

Studio: Sony
Year: 2011
Rated: R
Program Length: 127 minutes                         
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 1080p
Languages: Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian 5.1 DTS-HD MA
Subtitles: English, English SDH

The Program

In the Land of Blood and Honey, Angelina Jolie's directorial debut, is an intense but flawed look at the brutal combat and ethnic cleansing which took place following the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991. Jolie, who also wrote the screenplay, elected to make it a personal narrative which focuses on two characters. Ajla (Zana Marjonovic) is a young, beautiful Bosnian Muslim woman and Danijel (Goran Kostic) is a Serb policeman/soldier. Jolie's decision is understandable because the events which led to the conflict are exceedingly complex and a detailed exposition would be a film unto itself. Yugoslavia itself was formed in 1929, broke up during World War II, and was reconstituted when the Nazis withdrew from the area in 1944. The post-war Yugoslavia was made up of six republics - Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Slovenia. Bosnia and Herzegovina, which were handed over to Croatia by the Nazis, had by 1992 become a single republic.  Ethnic animosities had largely been kept in check during the decades of Communist rule, but nationalist fervor was always percolating under the surface. Serbs, Croats and Muslims had been living together peacefully, but when Yugoslavia came apart long-suppressed animosity began to lead to violence.

The film opens in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1992. Ajla, an artist who specializes in portraits, lives in an apartment with her sister Lejla (Vanessa Glodjo) and infant nephew. Ajla dresses up for a night on the town and heads out to a nightclub where she meets up with Danijel. They dance to rock 'n' roll and loves songs until their idyllic evening is shattered by a massive explosion. Ajla and Danijel both survive, but everything has changed. Four months later, Serb soldiers arrive at Alja's apartment building and everyone is forced outside. The men are taken away to be gunned down, and the more attractive women - including Alja - are hauled away to be cooks, maids and rape victims for the Serb soldiers. Danijel, whose father is the commander of the Serb army, has himself become a high-ranking officer. When he discovers that Alja has been taken by his soldiers, he does what he can to protect her. However, there is only so much that he can do for her without raising suspicions that he is being overly solicitous of a despised Muslim.

Danijel's father (Rade Serbedzija, who bears a remarkable resemblance to the late Jack Warden) explains to him that during World War II a million Serbs had been killed fighting the Nazis, and now the Serbs who lived in Bosnia and Herzegovina were facing the prospect of living under Muslim rule in a Muslim state after the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina declared its independence. The Serb solution was ethnic cleansing, the killing of as many Muslims as possible. The Serbs, believing that the fighting would be over in a matter of months, underestimated the resistance. They also were convinced that the western powers would look the other way as the slaughter of civilians continued, and for a time they were correct about that.

Danijel and Ajla have strong feelings for one another, but have events forced them to become enemies? And if they are not enemies, how can they have any sort of relationship as long as Danijel is complicit in killing Ajla's people? This plays out against a backdrop of utter and wanton destruction. Cities are leveled, families are torn apart, and women are brutalized. In the meantime, it seems certain that it is only a matter of time before Danijel's father learns about the special treatment which Ajla is receiving.

In the Land of Blood and Honey boasts outstanding acting and high production values. The combat scenes are very realistic and at times they threaten to jolt the viewer out of his or her chair. The film's authenticity is enhanced by the fact that the principal actors are natives of Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, the film's principal flaw is that its sharp focus on the situation between Ajla and Danijel prevents it from bringing the larger picture into context. It is never entirely clear what the Serbs ultimately hoped t achieve. There also is an unfortunate tendency to rely upon contrivances. At one point Danijel's father explains that in 1944 Turkish Muslims had passed by his family's farm and killed his mother and three siblings while they worked in a field. Are we to believe that Danijel really thought that he could have a relationship with a Muslim woman when he knew that his father loathed her people?

Still, this is an ambitious effort by Jolie and it is not likely to be soon forgotten. It is estimated that more than 100,000 people were killed and more than a million were displaced during the war, and it is not a subject with which most Americans are familiar. Potential viewers are warned that the film contains some gruesome violence and several scenes of women being casually raped and humiliated by Serb soldiers. 

The Video

This Blu-ray release continues Sony's tradition of producing first-class high-definition transfers. The picture is consistently sharp and detailed. The overall look is very gray and grim, in deliberately stark contrast to the colorful and cheerful opening scene. Much of the action takes place at night or in dark places, so the solid black levels and excellent shadow detail are welcome. The overall image is very film-like and free of digital anomalies.

The Audio

The lossless 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack is outstanding. The surround channels and subwoofer are kept busy with numerous sounds of explosions and gunshots. The English subtitles are located within the picture frame and are easy to read. Oddly, there is no English soundtrack on the Blu-ray disc, but there is an English soundtrack on the included DVD version of the film.

The Supplements

The extras on this Blu-ray disc are interesting but limited. A Blu-ray exclusive is an online Q&A chat which features Angelina Jolie and actress Vanesa Glodjo. Glodjo is fluent in English, so this feature requires no subtitles.

Also included are eleven deleted scenes (compare the deleted nightclub scene with the one which made the final cut) and a short, ten-minute "making of" featurette.

Sony also has included previews for The Rum Diary; Bel Ami; Salmon Fishing in the Yemen; and two Academy-Award winners, A Separation and The Artist.

The Packaging

The Blu-ray disc and the accompanying DVD are packaged in a standard-sized Blu-ray keep case with one disc on each side.

The Final Analysis

In the Land of Blood and Honey is not for everyone, but there is much about the film to appreciate. I would recommend that viewers do a little research about the war before watching the film, as some knowledge on the history of the region will help in understanding what happened there twenty years ago.

Equipment used for this review:

Panasonic DMP-BD50 Blu-ray player
Panasonic Viera TC-P46G15 Plasma display, calibrated to THX specifications by Gregg Loewen
Yamaha HTR-5890 THX Surround Receiver
BIC Acoustech speakers
Interconnects: Monster Cable

Release Date: March 27, 2012



 

 

dpippel

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Thanks for the review Rich. By the way, her name is ANGELINA Jolie, not Angelique.
 

Richard Gallagher

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Originally Posted by dpippel /t/319680/in-the-land-of-blood-and-honey-blu-ray-review#post_3911806
Thanks for the review Rich. By the way, her name is ANGELINA Jolie, not Angelique.

Thanks for catching that. That's what I get for writing late at night! At least I got it right when I mentioned her in the supplements. It's now been fixed.
 

Ronald Epstein

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Still, this is an ambitious effort by Jolie and it is not likely to be soon forgotten.


Just finished watching this film, and indeed, it's an effort
that Angelina should be very proud of.

Very much enjoyed this film. However, its melodrama
somewhat reduces it from being absolutely tremendous.

I would greatly recommend this film as a rental, at the
very least.
 

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