In the Land of Blood and Honey
By Jeffrey Anderson,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Angelina Jolie's movie is both horrifying and unengaging.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The movie wants to raise viewers' awareness of issues like the brutal treatment of female prisoners in Bosnia. But its main question is about giving up freedom to buy a measure of safety -- a question that it doesn't really answer. It also remains ambiguous or unclear on a number of other issues.
Positive Role Models
Presumably the main male character doesn't believe in the war effort, but he's also not brave enough or strong enough to make a stand against it. He tries to use whatever power he has to protect a woman, but his motivation for this and their relationship remains unclear. The main female character is stronger, but her motivations are likewise unclear.
Violence & Scariness
Soldiers brutally rape women prisoners, more than once. Women are also bullied and beaten regularly. Lots of blood is shown. Women are used as human shields in a battle. An old woman is shot in the head, and a baby is killed (off screen). A character dies a gurgling, bloody death. In other scenes, soldiers are seen shooting and killing, fighting and pummeling. Also explosions and dead bodies.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
The main characters have three sex scenes that include full-frontal nudity. Women prisoners are seen bathing. In a very upsetting scene, soldiers make old women strip naked (viewers see their behinds) and laugh at them.
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"F--k" is used several times (seen in subtitles).
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Soldiers drink and smoke cigarettes to pass the time. The main characters drink most of a bottle of wine with dinner.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that although In the Land of Blood and Honey -- actress Angelina Jolie's writing/directing debut -- is ostensibly a romantic war drama, it has much more gory, highly disturbing war imagery than romance. Expect very strong violence against women: Soldiers rape and bully women prisoners, and women are shot and killed and used as human shields in a battle. There's lots of blood, and a baby is killed off screen. In addition to the violence, there are three sex scenes with some full-frontal nudity, "f--k" is used (subtitled) several times, and the soldiers drink and smoke. It's possible that very mature teens could learn something about the horrifying conflict in 1992 in Bosnia-Herzegovina by watching, but unfortunately, the information isn't presented with the greatest of clarity, and the material is far too strong for kids under 18.
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Where to Watch
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What's the Story?
Set in the early 1990s in Bosnia-Herzegovina, IN THE LAND OF BLOOD AND HONEY tells the story of the Bosnian War. It doesn't go into detail about the war's history, but the Serbian soldiers are the bad guys, and the peaceful Croatian Muslims are the good guys. A Croat woman, Ajla (Zana Marjanovic) has a date with a Serbian man, Danijel (Goran Kostic), just as the war breaks out. Soon, Ajla finds herself a prisoner in a camp under his command. Danijel is against the war, but he can't stand up to his powerful father, Nebojsa (Rade Serbedzija). He decides to keep Ajla prisoner to protect her from rape and brutality by his fellow soldiers; she escapes but is recaptured. This time he allows her to paint, and she grows comfortable -- or is she only biding her time?
Is It Any Good?
Angelina Jolie makes her feature writing and directing debut with In the Land of Blood and Honey, and she makes a critical error. In her deep desire to send a message about the atrocities committed in Bosnia between 1992 and 1995, she forgets to spend much time on emotionally interesting characters. Instead, she jumps right into the atrocities, and viewers get scene after scene of rape, blood, and brutality.
In fact, it's actually unclear whether the main characters are ever really in love with each other. They seem happy for about one minute before the war starts, but afterward their relationship is cold and ambiguous. Danijel is shown to be weak and ineffective, and he's not appealing. Whether the point is romance or escape is unclear, and the movie fails to work in either direction. There's a ridiculous attempt to keep Ajla beautiful even after months in a prison camp, and though there are lessons about "empty space," they fall flat, as they're explained rather than suggested.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about In the Land of Blood and Honey's extreme violence. Was it all necessary to get the movie's point across? What impact does it have?
The movie has several sex scenes between the lead characters. Are they in a loving relationship, or is the sex more about power? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.
- In theaters: December 23, 2011
- On DVD or streaming: March 27, 2012
- Cast: Goran Kostic, Rade Serbedzija, Zana Marjanovic
- Director: Angelina Jolie
- Studio: FilmDistrict
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 127 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: war violence and atrocities including rape, sexuality, nudity and language
- Last updated: April 2, 2023
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