Land of Mine
Directed by Martin Zandvliet
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
★★★★★ review by Ben Scanga on Letterboxd
boys that are broken by war...
scarred and dehumanized...
little boys that scream out for their mothers when they get a limb blown off...
boys that fought for a war they didn't understand... and are then left to clean up the aftermath...
the most heartbreaking and upsetting movie I'll ever see, in theatres this year or otherwise, up there with manchester
★★★★ review by Naughty aka Juli Norwood 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!
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!
★★★★ review by Kalpit Tandon on Letterboxd
Zandvliet takes us to the beauties of Denmark with its golden sand and sun soaked beaches and then reveals man's inherent traits of violence. He makes sure we absorb the contrast between peace and serenity which then it blows to the treacherous winds. Every breath awaits an explosion with dreaded regrets, every day awaits a death with an open welcome.
Land of Mine is harrowing, brutal and leaves no stone unturned to gut punch the air out of you. It plays around moral boundaries, injecting sympathies in least expected places and values the price of love in a war torn landscape jeweled with mines.
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