REVIEW: No Man’s Land [2010]

Score: 7/10 | ★ ★ ★

Rating: NR | Runtime: 16 minutes | Release Date: 2010 (USA)
Director(s): Daniel Hahn
Writer(s): Daniel Hahn

“They can wait a little longer”

For God and country. Pro aris et focis. It’s a well-known motto of families and military regimens, a toast to the two things to which we must always be loyal. Any soldier of war should know this and any who returns home is as a result deemed heroic. The brave few willing to sacrifice their lives for that of a nation deserve the accolades, support, and love of the men and women they protected and none are more important than family. Those unable to join the fight toil away at home while their loved ones go off to distant lands in the name of a flag, a culture, and a free way of life. What many find upon their return, however, is that the prospect of home can hold just as much danger.

World War I has ended and a young soldier returns home to his father’s Long Island estate to begin the next chapter in his life. Luke Benson (Aaron Mathias) has done God and country proud by helping defeat the Germans, marred by a grotesque scar as a souvenir of a tragic event he’d rather not share. Through the quiet tension of spirit and the odd sense of a tipping of scales from the normalcy cultivated by his absence, one could say life in the Benson house is as precarious or more than the one just left in Europe. Like the stretch of mine-covered land between enemy trenches hiding death and destruction, the sanctity of family runs infinitely long and full of surprises.

Daniel Hahn‘s short film No Man’s Land is an effective work of drama that willfully compares the trenches of war with those of the heart. Shot and written in a way that would lend itself greatly to the stage, Luke’s return to his father Bernhard (Daniel Martin Berkey) and stepmother Alice (Kirsty Meares) is never quite as joyous as you’d expect. Between the patriarch looking to extol empty platitudes as a way to mask his desire to use a son’s heroism as a way to expand his social standing to the cold, mysterious stares shared by Luke and Alice in public contrasting the warm embrace in private, this war hero has simply traded battlefield for battlefield in a perpetual cycle of pain and suffering.

The tell-tale hand meets extreme jealousy as an incident in Germany is reenacted at home amidst betrayal and sin. Hahn expertly crafts his depiction of man’s wrath to keep possessions safe whether land, property, or love as steely-eyed deceit runs rampant behind closed doors. Like countries fighting wars in their practice of manifest destiny, people clutch tightly the spoils of their own small victories with an unparalleled tenacity. Emotions run high, pacts are hastily made, and deception as always rules the day in lieu of gracious defeat. As we justify murder in the name of freedom so too can we warp God’s will to our liking. Where do we draw the line and when does two wrongs making a right become an accepted from of justice?

Watch No Man’s Land for yourself on Vimeo.

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