Although actress/humanitarian/tabloid seller Angelina Jolie had previously directed a documentary in 2007, her 2011 feature In the Land of Blood and Honey marks her debut as a fictional filmmaker. The wartime romantic drama also denotes her first credited attempt at fictional screenwriting. Of course, calling In the Land of Blood and Honey fictional is a bit of an overstatement — since Jolie put her story together based on a great deal of factual information and stories from people whose lives were affected by the Bosnian War in the early to mid ‘90s.
Taking place in Sarajevo, Jolie spins an ugly, unforgiving yarn about a Bosnian Muslim woman named Ajla (Zana Marjanovi?), and her former lover before the war, Danijel (Goran Kosti?). As the film opens, Ajla and many of the other young women in her community are kidnapped by a group of Serb soldiers who intend to use them as sex slaves. Taken to a camp, our brave heroine discovers Danijel is the commanding officer there — and their romance begins once again. Unfortunately, things have changed for both parties since the war started — and their present-day views on current affairs are destined to intervene with their love. In fact, it just might start a personal war between them.
As ugly and unforgiving as Jolie’s movie is, I’m sorry to say it’s also unequivocally uninteresting. From the get-go, the story sets out to grip you with its tale of brooding romance spliced amid the various atrocities wars are so well-known for. Alas, there’s no amount of either sex or violence that can spice up this gritty, groggy film — which also features the great Rade Serbedzija (who is, without a doubt the most recognizable face in the entire film for North American viewers) as Kosti?’s army general father, and Vanessa Glodjo as Marjanovi?’s sister.
For me, the most interesting aspect of In the Land of Blood and Honey is the Blu-ray/DVD Combo release that Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has released here. The Blu-ray disc gives us a fine 1080p High-Def transfer and presents the movie in its original Serbian-language version with optional English subtitles, while the Standard DVD disc bestows an unreleased version of the flick, wherein all the actors speak English (and quite well, too, I might add). The DVD is a barebones affair, while the Blu-ray features several bonus items, including deleted scenes, a making-of featurette, and an hour-plus-long Q&A item with Jolie and supporting actress Vanessa Glodjo.
As I said before, I found In the Land of Blood and Honey to be a dull film. I wouldn’t say that it’s poorly-made, though. Jolie does a rather fine job presenting her tale. Sadly, her tale isn’t one that is ultimately worth telling.