Land of Mine

In the days following the surrender of Germany in May 1945, a group of young German prisoners of war were handed over to the Danish authorities and subsequently sent out to the West Coast, where they were ordered to remove the more than two million mines that the Germans had placed in the sand along the coast. With their bare hands, crawling around in the sand, the boys were forced to perform the dangerous work under the leadership of the Danish sergeant, Carl Leopold Rasmussen.

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  • ★★★★ review by CinemaClown on Letterboxd

    Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the upcoming Academy Awards, Land of Mine (also known as Under sandet) is a disturbing, disquieting & devastating cinema that's inspired from the immoral & inhuman act that the Danish authorities perpetrated against German POWs, majority of whom were teenagers, following the end of the Second World War in Europe.

    Set in post-World War II Denmark, the story of Land of Mine follows a Danish Sergeant who is assigned the duty to defuse & remove over 2 million mines that were buried by the Germans along the coast during the war. Receiving a batch of teenage Germans POWs to carry out the operation, the Sergeant's initial hostility towards them begins to undergo an unexpected change.

    Written & directed by Martin Zandvliet, the film opens with a crucial sequence that establishes the seething hatred that the Sergeant has against Germans and takes it up from there. Every segment featuring the young boys trying to defuse the mines with their bare hands despite being obviously ill-equipped to carry out the dangerous task is nail-biting as hell and even more hard-hitting when they fail at it.

    Zandvliet's direction exhibits terrific restraint from start to finish and how he handles the characters & their arcs is even more admirable. Without choosing a side, he puts believable people on screen and keeps all their human attributes in tact, whether they are Danish or Germans. And while the hostile nature of the former against the latter is understandable, what the Danish authorities force them to do is equally inexcusable.

    Shot at historically authentic locations, the entire picture is splendidly photographed and the era of Denmark recovering from the war is wonderfully captured by its desaturated & earthy colour tones. Camerawork is handheld, static & expertly controlled for the most part and allows the scenes to play out at their desired pace but the longer it lingers on the defusing process, the more suspenseful it becomes and, majority of the time, ends on a heartbreaking note.

    Editing is skilfully carried out, for every single minute of its 1½ hour narrative is accounted for & is relevant to the plot. Every sequence on the beach is compelling & handled with patience and every explosion or casualty reverberates with the audience & the impact of it is deeply felt. The film does feel longer than its runtime but it is relentlessly gripping till the end. And further enhancing its grim aura is the poignant score that always surfaces on time.

    Coming to the performances, Land of Mine features an incredibly committed cast in Roland Møller, Louis Hofmann & others, with Hofmann impressing the most. Møller is in as the Sergeant overseeing the mine clearing operation and expresses his character's inner conflict brilliantly while Hofmann plays one of the young boys performing the fatal, endless task of defusing thousands of buried mines with stunning balance, and the scenes between the two are the film's highlight.

    On an overall scale, Land of Mine not only ranks amongst the best films of its year but is one of the finest films to come out from Cinema of Denmark. Incessantly human, powerfully moving & making a strong statement about what makes us human & why it's even more important to hold on to that part in times of bitter conflict, this Danish masterpiece is an extremely riveting example of its genre that treads a difficult path & is utterly discomforting at times yet manages to fully redeem itself in the end. An essential viewing by all means, Land of Mine comes very highly recommended.

  • ★★★★ review by michelle on Letterboxd

    this > hickety hacksaw ridge

  • ★★★★½ review by Abdulrahman on Letterboxd

    دراما واثارة دنماركية حابسة للانفاس ومؤلمة جدا. 

    فيلم مبهر يتحدث عن قصة مرعبة لم يُسلط عليها الضوء من قبل، بعد احداث الحرب العالمية الثانية، مجموعة من المراهقين ذنبهم انهم المانيين يتم اجبارهم على ازالة الاف الالغام المدفونة على الساحل الدنماركي دون مراعاة لمخاطر انفجار تلك الالغام في ايديهم. تاريخي حربي لكن مختلف تماما عن الصورة النمطية لافلام الحروب المعروفة، هي المرة الاولى التي ستشاهد فيها هذا الشكل من الافلام. حابس للانفاس، عاطفي و مؤلم جدا،

    تصوير خلاب وموسيقى دافئة ملموسة.

    ساعة واربعين دقيقة كانت ممتعة جدا، واجبة مشاهدته للمهتم.

  • ★★★★ review by Trevor Maek on Letterboxd

    History is written by the victors.

    After watching Dunkirk this summer, I sat down with my Opa to ask him about what he remembered about the evacuation at Dunkirk. He acknowledged that the evacuation at Dunkirk was one of the worst military defeats the British suffered, but he looked at me and said with a concerned look on his face: I bet the film doesn't acknowledge the failures of the Nazi regime to defeat the allied forces after they had so quickly forced them towards the British channel. Now my grandfather certainly wanted nothing to do with Hitler or the Nazi regime for that matter, but he did bring my attention to the reality that often along with the costs of war, a country's voice is lost in their defeat. It's certainly true - a film like Dunkirk doesn't even give Germans any screen time nor voice.

    My Opa's family fled Germany to escape the war, spending some time in a refugee camp in Denmark before eventually sailing over to Canada to start a new life. Some Germans were not so lucky, conscripted into a war that they had no desire to be a part of. Martin Zandvliet's Land of Mine acknowledges the war crimes committed by Denmark following the end of the war, as several German POWs were forced to stay back and defuse and remove over a million mines placed along Denmark's west coast. Zandvliet blurs the lines between friend and foe, depicting soldiers on both sides as victims, inclined to terrible barbarity but also capable of compassionate humanity.

    The film starts with a startling and disturbing moment - a resentful Dane, Sergeant Carl, brutally assaults a German POW marching off carrying a Danish flag. It seems indiscriminate, but it is not without reason. This sergeant has been hardened by the effects of war, and desires to reclaim his homeland - his "Land of Mine." But Zandvliet quickly shifts the attention to the suffering of the German POWs placed under the supervision of Sgt. Carl, who treats them with humiliation and disdain, even going as far as starving them. The combination of the strained relationship between the soldiers and Sgt. Carl along with their daunting task makes for an extremely tense and horrifying film, as either of the situations is primed to explode at any moment.

    The content matter of Land of Mine pushes into exploitative territory, throwing the most perilous situations at its viewers, including dogs, small children and youths in danger of being blown up, in order to elicit suspense. At times it can feel overly oppressive, and its plot shifts are literally about as abrupt as an explosion, but despite its flaws it is nonetheless a compelling film which in itself is a plea for forgiveness and reconciliation. I don't think I'm ready to sit through Land of Mine any time soon, but it was definitely worth the watch.

  • ★★★★ review by Naughty on Letterboxd

    Rated R - 1 Hour 40 Minutes

    Drama - Foreign - War

    Director: Martin Zandvliet

    Starring: Roland Møller, Louis Hofmann, Joel Basman

    Summary: A shocking story about Young German POWs forced to disarm landmines in Denmark!

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    A chilling account of the attrocities committed during the aftermath of war! Profound in its revelations of a species so vile, so despicable in regards to the actions committed against each other, one wonders if there is any hope for redemption! An absolute soul crushing cinematic experience I still can't seem to shake off!

    War is the result of morally and ethically bankrupt old men whom lust for power and wallow in their greed! Their sick warmongering legacy is built on the graves of young men using their bones and blood as mortar! The film captured the horrors of war and those it leaves in its wake in the aftermath! There truly are no victors when it comes to war for we all lose another piece of our humanity for every life that is lost!

    Brilliantly captured and portrayed innocence in its purest form which over time ultimately gave way to innocence lost after being ravaged time and time again by barbarism, hopelessness, maiming and even death!

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