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In the Land of Blood and Honey is the dramatic story of two lives, brought together only to be torn apart in the brutal realities of the Bosnian War. Angelina Jolie, Oscar-winning actress and Icon, is behind the camera for the first time. In the movie’s production notes, Jolie and the cast explains the journey they took to realize the full potential of In the Land of Blood and Honey.
Jolie recognized that the different emotions involved with each character’s relationships would require different approaches. “Rade and Goran tended to rehearse,” she recalls. “They wanted to rehearse. They had met and discussed it, and it was their way. That was fine with me. I felt that as they spent time together, and the more they got to know each other, play together, the more familiar they would be.
It wasn’t extensive, but it was the method.” Kostić felt that familial kinship as soon as he and Šerbedžija began working together. “He’s such a huge actor with this enormous body of work. I felt this father-son relationship immediately when I met Rade. I felt this great respect for him. We would spend an hour rehearsing before we would shoot a scene. I’ve worked with a lot of actors of that generation, and they never rehearse. Rade’s different.”
“With Zana and Goran, however, we didn’t rehearse,” says Jolie. “We wanted them to surprise each other. So often, one of them would have information the other one didn’t have. They could have the ability to be really looking at each other for information. We wanted that chess game to always exist between them.
I never encouraged them to be too comfortable with each other. You wanted them to keep a bit of distance so that they weren’t sure.” Kostić felt similarly. “I don’t really want to know what Ajla is thinking or feeling when Danijel is not there,” he says. “It gave our relationship a dynamic.
I knew what Ajla was saying to Danijel, but beyond that…The more we got into it, the more strongly we felt this trust as actors. We were trusted.” That trust was felt strongly by Marjanović as well. “The three of us—me, Goran, Angelina—worked as a team. From day one, it felt like we knew each other for a long time, that we were really good friends. As with any film, you have to feel the trust from your partner. This trust between us was never broken. Once you have that, everything can run smoothly.”
An important example for Jolie became the scene where Danijel discovers that Ajla has been raped. “In that scene, I knew that as an actor, if I was forced to do that in pieces and for too long, it would drain me and I would start to be conscious of my behavior; it would be very painful and not as organic.
We made sure that everything was ready on that day, that the cameras and lights were set, so that Goran and Zana were able to do it all in one go. There’s a cut in the edit, but we did shoot it all in one take. I came in and told them, ‘We’re gonna do this hopefully two times, and hopefully that will be it.
I know that it’s cold, and it will be very difficult, but if you can get into it, feel it, and give me everything you’ve got, I will not make you do this 30 times. It’ll be our job to come to you, to move around you, to sculpt it with the camera and the editing. But right now, give me everything you’ve got.’ We pushed through that morning, and it was a very physically and emotionally challenging morning for both of them. But then it was done.”
Location shooting occurred in Budapest, Hungary. “We wanted to shoot in Sarajevo, but the city doesn’t look like it did then,” says Jolie. “None of Bosnia really does, with the exception of a few pockmarked buildings, because—fortunately—it’s physically recovered. Budapest had a lot of empty space to shoot, and the architecture and landscape looked very similar.
At the time we shot our film, they opened a studio. It was a great place to shoot. But it was important to include shots that were genuinely of the area. There were a few days shot in Bosnia, like in the opening of the film—a lot of wide shots and plate shots. We needed to bring in the beauty of the country, the real landscape.”