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No Man's Land (2010)


It’s the winter of 1919, and World War I has recently come to an end. War hero Luke Benson (Aaron Mathias) returns home to his father’s, Bernhard Benson (Daniel Berkey), house where he discusses the struggles of war–including his experience in No Man’s Land. Luke’s relationship with his father is anything but perfect–but when a secret of his rises to the surface, that relationship becomes even more strained. Will the father and son be able to save their relationship, or will things fall apart permanently?

Luke and his stepmother, Alice (Kirsty Meares), are in a forbidden relationship. Their sexually-driven relationship is one that is taboo even today–the way in which it would have been treated in the early twentieth century would have been far worse. The drama present in No Man’s Land is unique–because, while forbidden relationships are often depicted in film, a stepmother and stepson aren’t often shown in this way. This plays on the idea that love is blind, and it explores the dark corners of love and sex. No Man’s Land never glorifies the relationship, but it also never damns it. This relationship remains open to interpretation, and it gives viewers a reason to follow and become invested in the narrative.

It’s no secret that pornography is watched often online–and it was brought to my attention via social media (I believe from a comedian) that some of the most popular porn-related searches have to do with family. This is a strange corner that exists in the world of porn, but it exists nonetheless. Writer-Director Daniel Hahn twists this idea ever so slightly, enough to turn it into something dramatic rather than arousing. The idea, whether you cringe at it or are intrigued by it, is unique–and that fact alone will likely appeal to audiences in one way or another. It’s a strange narrative for sure, but No Man’s Land has the ability to appeal to many for a number of reasons.

The physical darkness that exists throughout No Man’s Land sometimes makes it difficult to see what is taking place. Part of that comes as a result of the clarity of the online copy I watched. That’s not necessarily a mistake on the part of the filmmakers, but the darkness is sometimes blinding regardless. In these moments it becomes difficult to understand what exactly is occurring. While I understand that the darkness plays a role in setting the tone of No Man’s Land, it goes too far, making it difficult to follow the film at times–and the film as a whole suffers as a result.

The most impressive part of the entire film is that Hahn’s team is able to recreate what rural America would have looked like in the 1910’s. Every minor detail is accurate from the transportation to the outfits, and the ability of this team to put together a short film of this caliber in terms of set design, hair, and makeup is incredible.

No Man’s Land is beautifully developed and historically accurate; this alone would be enough to attract viewers–but a uniquely intriguing narrative exists as well, and that does wonders for No Man’s Land. There is no way around it–No Man’s Land is sexually and emotionally driven, and that will appeal to viewers, and through the ever-changing dynamic of Luke and his family, viewers are drawn into the story. This is a well-constructed film that explores some wild and typically unexplored areas of cinema and the world.

Written & Directed by Daniel Hahn.

Starring Daniel Berkey, Kirsty Meares, Aaron Mathias, & John Craft.




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