When Angelina Jolie was picking a title for her directorial debut, which is a love story between a Serbian soldier and a Muslim woman during the Bosnian War, she admitted that she struggled with deciding on just the right name. “It’s a heavy film,” she said. “You want to find that title that really helps the audience know what they’re walking into.” So calling it “In the Land of Blood and Honey” definitely suggests this romantic drama won’t be a walk in the park — especially after rumors started circulating that the Serbian character rapes the woman.
Today we saw our first trailer for the film, which Jolie doesn’t star in. And from everything we see here, yes, it’s going to be a very, very heavy film. But it looks like the producers are hoping that a strong romance at the center might make it a little more palatable to audiences.
The trailer leans heavily on the complicated relationship between the woman (Zana Marjanovic) and her Serbian captor (Goran Kostic). There’s a clear attraction between them, but because they’re on opposite sides of the conflict, can they ever trust one another? Meanwhile, the Bosnian War rages around them, and it appears that “In the Land of Blood and Honey” will be bigger in scope than may have been expected, including battle scenes. Tying it all together is a haunting piano score and words across the screen that read “Love can change what we want” and “War can change who we are.”
In other words, Jolie and FilmDistrict (which is putting out the movie in late December) know that their movie isn’t going to be for everyone. There aren’t any stars in front of the camera, and the Bosnian War isn’t a conflict that’s as well known (at least to American audiences) as either World War. But from the beginning, Jolie has insisted that her movie had universal themes concerning “how human relationships and behavior are deeply affected by living inside a war.” This trailer nails that tone exactly right. Despite all the controversy the movie had to endure before anyone had seen any of it, “In the Land of Blood and Honey” from these few minutes of footage looks very much like the sort of prestige picture that Oscar voters love. The trailer takes what could be a difficult sell and packages it in a way awards-season audiences can easily recognize. Now we’ll have to see how the finished product delivers on that promise.