Nominated for this year's Foreign Film Oscar, No Man's Land is an absurdist look at the Balkan War by Bosnian filmmaker Danis Tanovic. More deftly than I would have thought possible, Tanovic sets up a situation where a Bosnian and a Serb, both of them wounded, are marooned together in a trench between their respective armies' front lines. First, the Bosnian is in control. Then the Serb. Then the Bosnian again. And giving their back-and-forth an extra dose of hopelessness is the presence of a second Bosnian soldier who, having regained consciousness after an artillery shell sent him flying through the air, discovers that he's lying on top of a "bouncing" mine. These little beauties, Tanovic is careful to point out, are U.S.-made, and they're completely harmless as long as you don't try to move. Call it Catch-23.
Or call it No Exit. At its best, No Man's Land has a Sartrean or Beckettian bite to it, ripping away the war's political context until all that's left is the bare bone of one man inexplicably hating another. At its worst, it turns into a political cartoon, as when the press and the U.N. peacekeeping force show up and are summarily lampooned. But through most of this standoff, Tanovic keeps his target squarely within his sight. "We're all in the same shit now," the man with the bomb up his butt says. This is right before he reveals that he has to go to the bathroom.