The last decade has seen actor Angelina Jolie’s celebrity status change quite a bit. Throughout the 90’s, the world watched Jolie kiss her brother on the red carpet, wear Billy Bob Thorton’s blood vial, and generally excite us with her unrestricted promiscuity. Fast forward about 10 years, a new husband a few adoptions and humanitarian efforts later and that Jolie we know in 2011 seems to be a woman on a much different mission. Jolie’s debut as a filmmaker and writer with her Bosnian war film In the Land of Blood and Honey (2011) shows that the while this A list director has definitely set her sights on trying to pay tribute to the atrocities of the Bosnian war, it’s not a surprise that Blood and Honey still has hints of the seductive starlet’s artistically divisive nature and irrefutable attraction to a good old kinky sex scene.
In the Land of Blood and Honey tells the story of Aija (Zana Marjanovic): a young, soft spoken, and attractive aspiring painter whose life, along with many around her, is torn apart once Serbian forces begin rounding up Bosnian Muslims. Danijel (Goran Kostic), a top ranking Serbian soldier unclear about his allegiance to the Serbian cause, ferrets out Aija to continue a now illicit affair that began literally moments before the Serbian uprising. Although Jolie’s cinematic style is quite novice, the director makes no mistake that Blood and Honey was made with very serious intentions. Jolie’s use of Serbian actors actually speaking Serbian throughout the film is quite commendable, especially because we continue to live in an age where Hollywood gets away with making foreign films in English (Hugo ahem). Still, the sexual encounters between Aija and Danijel are too steamy to be considered acts of purely narrative driven love, and instead become an excuse for forbidden and fetishized racy sex. Ultimately, Jolie’s determination for austerity with Blood and Honey’s message is becomes misguided at times. The vicious rape scenes, human degradation, and graphic war sequences are presented as supplementary to Aija and Danijel’s love story and all of the work she does to assure us of the film’s factual and grim intentions gets pushed to the side by the back and forth of the fiery sadomasochistic narrative that takes higher priority. It seems that when the two lovers’ story comes to halt, so does Blood and Honey and this is troubling because when Jolie does show us the gritty atrocities of the Bosnian war, her authenticity is formidable. Blood and Honey promises us retrospection and insight into the gritty Bosnian war, but what seems to echo the loudest is Jolie’s well known predilection for anything of the kinky variety.