Land of Mine
• Four stars
• Director Martin Zandvliet
• Starring Roland Moller, Louis Hofmann
• Running time 101 minutes
German soldiers buried millions of mines on Denmark's
beaches during their occupation of the
neighbouring country for almost all of WWII.
Surely it was their job to defuse those same mines
when the Allies finally won.
Sergeant Carl Rasmussen (Roland Moller) — who
illustrates his pent-up rage in the film's opening sequence
by beating up a vanquished soldier after
he souvenirs a Danish flag — is unequivocal on
After five years, he feels nothing but contempt for
his German occupiers.
Even when Rasmussen meets the group of POWs
that have been assigned to him — some as young
as 15 — he doesn't waver.
But as, one by one, the kids are blown up or
maimed, the ethical complexities of his situation
start to become apparent.
Over time, Rasmussen can't help but develop relationships
with his young charges, conscripted by
Hilter during the last days of the war.
He, like his audience, is forced to question notions
of justice, culpability and retribution much more rigorously.
And that's what makes Land of Mine bearable.
Because the scenes in which the boys inch their
way across the sand on their bellies, prodding
carefully for the tell-tale clink, digging the mines
out with their bare hands, are close to unwatchable.
When they come, the explosions — caused by
shaky fingers, freak accidents, booby traps — are
almost a relief.
Understated performance from a fine bunch of
young actors, including Louis Hofmann, who plays
Sebastian, the natural leader of group, ensure an
intense emotional investment on the part of the audience.
Nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Film,
Land of Mine is inspired by real events.
Two thousand German soldiers were forced to remove
mines. Many of them were teenagers. Half
lost their lives or limbs.
It's a little-known story, powerfully told. The message
is both timely and timeless.