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No Man’s Land (2001)

I don’t have a lot of experience with the culture of the cinema of Eastern Europe, and I recognize that it’s probably a grave sin to lump all the cultures east of German and west of Russia into one category.  But one thing I’ve noticed about movies from that part of the world: they like their comedy dark.  As in, black.  As in “it’s depressing, but it’s funny — but it’s mostly depressing.”   And I have a hard time enjoying that.

“No Man’s Land” is about two soldiers stuck in an abandoned trench in the middle of the Serbian-Croatian war.  One is Serbian, the other is Croatian. When they take off their uniforms, neither side can tell which is which (that would be the humor.)  They hate each other, but can’t even agree on who started the war, or what they’re fighting about (more humor.)  And when the United Nations peacekeeping team intervenes to rescue them, they are completely inept and ruled by bureaucracy and concerns about public image.  They end up pulling out and lying to the press, having done nothing but gotten a couple of people killed.  Hooray for justice.

I wouldn’t say “No Man’s Land” is relentlessly bleak, but if you’re not down with its sense of humor, it can be a long haul.  There’s nothing redemptive here; nothing good happens from the first frame to the last.  It’s a film about how messed up everything is, from patriotism to war to politics to the press to well, everything.  The world’s a messed up place, and there’s no silver lining, no reason to hope it will ever be anything else.  Come to think of it, that is relentlessly bleak.  Especially for a comedy.

Verdict: Not Recommended  Unless you just got done watching “Patch Adams” or something.

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