Probably most viewers are attracted to In The Land of Blood and Honey because of the name of the writer and the director. None other than Hollywood star Angelina Jolie. Maybe you’ve heard of her? In The Land of Blood and Honey is Jolie’s directorial debut. Set during the Bosnian War, the film tells a complicated love story between a Bosnian Serb soldier and a Bosnian Muslim painter. Because of the big name attached, there was clearly some skepticism of how the still sensitive issue of the Bosnian War would be handled. That issue, Jolie handles respectfully. But it’s the story itself that has some issues.
The film opens as Bosnia is on the brink of war. Danijel, a Bosnian Serbian police officer, is romancing Ajla, a Bosnian Muslim painter, at a local bar when a bomb goes off. The movie then fast forwards and resumes with the war in full swing. Ajla and other selected women are taken by Serb soldiers to a camp where they are forced to cook and clean for them. The women are abused and raped. As fate would have it, Danijel is the captain in charge at the camp. He does what he can to protect and look out for a scared and an understandably cautious Ajla. Theirs is a complicated situation and a complicated love story — although the word “love” never seems to come up. Danijel, however, is seen as weak by his famous war general father who pressures him for his special treatment of a Muslim woman. Danijel is subsequently suspicious of Ajla who has, by this time, been taken as his private painter and given her own quarters and relative safety.
The cast are wonderful. Goran Kostić is a fragile, confused Danijel and Zana Marjanović is a strong but vulnerable Ajla. But the story, the relationship between the two doesn’t always feel authentic. It feels at times too easy, too much like a movie. Jolie isn’t terrible but it’s not a masterpiece.