If you thought ‘The Hurt Locker’ was an intense film about bomb defusals, wait until you watch the historical World War 2 based Danish film ‘Land of Mine’. A film which simply blew me away and if you follow me on twitter, you would be able to find my tweets shortly after watching ‘Land of Mine’ for the first time, which come from the mind of a man who had felt like he had seen a harrowing masterpiece, which would be correct.
Martin Pieter Zandvliet’s 2015 film ‘Land of Mine’, staring Roland Møller, Louis Hofmann, Mikkel Følsgaard and Joel Basman, is based on the aftermath of World War 2 in Denmark, where 2000 German POWs were forced to dig up 1.5 million land mines, that were placed on the coast of Denmark during the German occupation. It follows a small group of the very young POWs who are put to work under the command of Danish Sgt. Rassmussen (Rolland Møller), and must clear a beach of 45,000 land mines, in order for them to be freed from captivity. This leads to the young Germans starting to doubt if they will make it out alive and a Danish Sgt. who generally wonders why these boys should do the dangerous work that they are forced to do.
To start off, I must talk about this often forgotten chapter of WWII. Spanning from May 1945, to October 1945, this six month period where German POWs, which I must say were only young adults/teenagers, were forced into fighting for their country in the final days of WWII, were basically innocent for what their predecessors had done to make the Nazis such a hated bunch of people. By the time all 1.5 million land mines were cleared, about half of the 2000 POWs were either killed or severely injured. Just about all of them were also placed in conditions that would have easily broken the Geneva Convention. So, it is a nasty period of the war and it really tells us that maybe some of the allied forces weren’t as ‘heroic’ as they were made out to be. I’m not saying the Germans were the good guys of the war, but some of them were innocent and oblivious to all what was happening around them, which really makes the aftermath of WWII even more tragic.
Now, ‘Land of Mine’ is a beautiful movie to look at. The warm colour palate of whites, blues, and greys that are used, really makes the film shine, even with the dark subject matter that is being told. The beauty of the film helps us deal with one of the major positives for the film, yet it is a rather interesting positive when I think about.
The positive that I am talking about is the intensity of the film. The whole film seems to be like a piano wire that is being tightened and tightened throughout, until it snaps when you least expect it. Each scene that involves the cast defusing the land mines, makes you feel uncomfortable and very nervous for what could happen, which is just a great aspect of the film. One of the biggest highlights is a scene very early on, when each POW has to take a live mine into a bunker where they must defuse it. As each POW takes one in, the quietness of the scene makes you feel like you are in their shoes, and you can feel the sense of danger that these characters are in.
Another great positive is the performances from the great cast which is made up of a lot of unknowns. The standout is easily Roland Møller as the Danish Sgt. who is in charge of the main group of POWs we follow. From the opening scene that sees him beat up a POW for having a Danish flag on him, to his eventual closeness with the poor souls that must do the dirty work, it is a touching performance to witness. The performances from the young cast are also great, as their many emotions that are portrayed on-screen, are just glorious to watch.
The soundtrack and direction are also great and I feel like Martin Pieter Zandvliet is definitely a foreign director that I am going to look out for in the future. The soundtrack is both harrowing and hopeful, which is perfect for the tone of the film.
Overall, ‘Land of Mine’ is one of the greatest anti-war films of all time. From its dark subject matter on an often forgotten period of WWII to its unrelenting tension, ‘Land of Mine’ is a harrowing piece of cinema that should be considered a must watch for anyone who likes to watch not just war films, but films in general.