A war of cleansing, atrocity and extermination has begun and so, it seems, has a star-crossed love story. Danijel is promoted to commander of a women's detention camp, and into his prison walks Ajla. Of all the gin joints . . .
He "protects" her by making her his private consort, and while she appears to agree to this arrangement (it beats being raped nightly by drunken enlisted men), we're never sure where the parties stand, and their fraught relationship becomes the subject of Jolie's strange movie.
The commander and his prisoner have beneath them a foundation of genuine feeling. Their attraction, after all, predates the war. That war, however, has warped everything around them and twisted their budding romance. Everything is distorted by the massive imbalance in power that defines them now. In Danijel, every act of tenderness is wrapped in an implied threat.
What, you may ask, does any of this have to do with the war raging around them? Beats me. Jolie wrote the script and has a few scant lines defining the Serb/Muslim conflict in very broad strokes.
The ghastly particulars of ethnic cleansing, on the other hand, are on full display. Every 10 minutes or so, another woman is defiled, a baby killed or a pedestrian assassinated by a roving Serb convoy. (The movie has drawn complaints from Serbian groups, and Jolie moved some on-location shooting to Hungary).
Then it's back to Danijel and Ajla and their weird psych-ops love affair, a mix of candid sex, guilt, suspicion and shame.
It doesn't come together for Jolie here, the way it did in "City of Life and Death," a possible source of inspiration.
Another model for "Blood and Honey" may have been Polanski's "The Pianist," which touched on the way the war reduces the cultured and civilized (Ajla is a painter) to mere survivors and may have inspired her opening sequence.
And if you set the war aside, you see the ingredients for the kind of sex/power struggle that might have interested Almodovar.
Jolie is aiming high here, her influences are impeccable.
Her game, however, could use a little work.
Produced by Angelina Jolie, Graham King, Tim Headington, Tim Moore, written and directed by Angelina Jolie, music by Gabriel Yared, distributed by FilmDistrict.