Land of Mine

 

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A drama set in Denmark drawing on actual post-war events of 1945.

 
Land of Mine
  

An opening statement declares that the story told here takes place in Denmark in 1945 following five years of occupation. What follows is centred on a fact that will be unknown to many of us. The Germans had set mines on the Danish beaches in their thousands and after peace was declared it was decided that the extremely dangerous job of defusing them should be given to supervised prisoners of war, many of them Germans who were no more than boys. The motive of Martin Zandvliet, the film's writer and director, is to bring home the theme of common humanity. Understandably, the wartime experiences of the Danes had in many cases left them extremely hostile to all Germans, but Land of Mine invites viewers, whatever their nationality, to feel sympathy for the youngsters seen here who are forced to risk life and limb all too literally. The early scenes in particular portray the harshness of military attitudes in such a way that most of the audience will feel encouraged to care about the fate of the fourteen youths seen carrying out this task under the supervision of Sergeant Carl Rasmussen (Roland Møller).

 

The first half of Land of Mine, enhanced by the wide screen colour photography of Camilla Helm Knudsen which ironically makes the sandy beaches an attractive setting, is impressive. Dramas about defusing bombs are not new - they range from The Small Back Room (1949) to The Hurt Locker (2008) - but the situation depicted here has a freshness through being unfamiliar, However, powerful as it is, what is depicted is a situation rather than a fully-fledged story and Zandvliet, in order to create a plot around it, has opted to show how Rasmussen's attitude to those in his charge changes over time. Since he is very tough initially (even if his superior officer played by Mikkel Boe Felsgaard is the out-and-out nasty man of the piece), one assumes that Land of Mine will show Rasmussen softening up. To some extent this is what happens, but efforts are made to find extra drama that will complicate this. Admittedly, at least one dramatic incident validly achieves this, but nevertheless the writing seems too indicative of determined attempts to build up the drama with the consequence that the film more than once loses the essential sense of credibility. That is true again when it comes to the contrived neatness of the film's final scene. This is an interesting and powerful film but ultimately one that through becoming less convincing is less satisfying than one had hoped it would be.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Roland Møller, Mikkel Boe Felsgaard, Louis Hofmann, Joel Basman, Emil Belton, Oskar Belton, Oskar Bökelmann, Leon Seidel, Laura Bro, Mads Rilsom, Zoé Zandvliet.

 

Dir Martin Zandvliet, Pro Mikael Chr. Rieks and Malte Grunert, Screenplay Martin Zandvliet, Ph Camilla Hjelm Knudsen, Pro Des Gitte Malling, Ed Per Sandholt and Molly Malene Stensgaard, Music Sune Martin, Costumes Stefanie Bieker.

 

Nordisk Film Production/Amusement Park Film/Majgaard Ltd./K5 International/K5 Film/ZDF-Thunderbird Releasing .
101 mins. Denmark/Germany. 2015. Rel: 4 August 2017. Cert. 15.