No Man's Land. Danis Tanovic. This may just be the best film of 2001. Part comedy, part tragedy and all bite, it damns and mocks in equal measure, painting a picture of war's absurdity and coming down squarely against war rather than against the hated Serbs. Two soldiers -- one Bosnian (Branko Djuric), one Serb (Rene Bitorajac) -- are trapped together in an open-air trench that lies halfway between the Bosnian and Serb military lines. A sergeant with the UN peacekeeping force tries to rescue them, despite orders from his superiors not to get involved. A phalanx of TV cameras and reporters race to the site, turning the event into a media circus. Practically no one emerges unscathed in writer/director Tanovic's cleverly conceived screenplay, which stands as a blistering attack on the UN's ineffectualness; on the bloodthirsty, ratings-obsessed media; and on the warring factions themselves. Most of the film takes place in a hole in the ground, yet the film feels neither stagy nor static, and it never becomes boring. Instead, it reverberates with anger and intelligence, wit and despair. In Bosnian with English subtitles. Opens Feb. 22 at the Tivoli. (JO)
Queen of the Damned. Michael Rymer. Opens Feb. 22 at multiple locations. Reviewed this issue.
Werckmeister Harmonies. Bela Tarr. Mysterious and hauntingly powerful, Tarr's Werckmeister Harmonies is an elusive yet ultimately insightful look at a society spinning into chaos, an allegory, according to the director, of the numerous horrors that have rocked Europe -- in particular, the ethnic fighting in Bosnia -- in the last few years. Set in a small, primitive Hungarian village where fuel is scarce and the citizens are restless, the film follows events almost randomly as a traveling show consisting of a preserved whale carcass and a mysterious rabble-rousing figure known as the Prince bring the repressed disgruntlement of the townspeople to the fore. Circumnavigating the pandemonium is a local postman, Janos (played by Lars Rudolph, who resembles a younger, friendlier Klaus Kinski), who wanders from event to event, his helplessness mirrored by Tarr's cinematic style which uses long, carefully staged takes and shifting tableaux to capture the spiraling violence. The film's climax is a reel-long tour-de-force of in which a hysterical mob stages a brutal attack on the village hospital and then almost sheepishly runs from the evidence of its own violence. Though other European filmmakers have turned their attention to the violent events of recent history, it's hard to imagine a better depiction of their banal savagery than Tarr's terrifyingly masterful film. Plays at 7 p.m. Feb. 22-24 at Webster University. (RH)