Land Of Mine: Review

Land Of Mine: Review

Land Of Mine: Review. By Joe Muldoon.

Exploring a world ravaged by conflict, Martin Zandvliet’s Oscar-nominated 2015 postwar drama Land Of Mine (a fantastic pun in itself) is a deeply moving exercise in humanity. Set in Denmark immediately following the end of WWII, a group of German teenage POWs are forced to clear thousands of landmines left hidden on a beach by their older compatriots.

Under the stern, watchful eye of Sergeant Carl Rasmussen (played by the incredible Roland Møller), the boys are taught how to defuse the mines and thrown into the task without any regard for their safety. With the promise that they’ll be home in a short matter of months if they can consistently defuse six mines an hour, the lads are cautiously optimistic despite their predicament.



Left without proper food or sanitation, malnourishment and sickness soon sweep the troupe, the young Ernst (Emil Belton) going so far as to befriend a local girl (Zoe Zandvliet) so he can steal her bread to share with his twin, Werner (Oskar Belton). Between poor health and several boys tragically losing their lives whilst defusing the mines, their plight quickly becomes a scramble for survival.

As he spends more time with those under his charge, Rasmussen softens towards the teens and sees them for what they are: kids. Kids unwillingly swept up into a war they neither wanted nor created. This development of warmth is perhaps predictable, but Zandvliet executes it in a way that feels plausible, never becoming unbelievable or uninteresting.

As the film draws to a close, we’re left with a sobering statistic: ‘After the war more than 2,000 German POWs were forced to remove over 1.5 million landmines from the west coast of Denmark. Almost half of them died or were severely injured.’ In violation of Article 32 of the Geneva Convention, these instances have rightly been condemned as war crimes in retrospect, and the picture serves as a reminder of the viciousness of the conflict even in its quivering embers.

World War II is perhaps the most well-trodden ground for historical cinema, yet Zandvliet (who also authored its astonishing screenplay) manages to find largely ungrazed pastures for the story: that of adolescent strife, the forced loss of innocence of POWs who are ‘clueless’ to the situation, as the Sergeant puts it. Amidst the bloodshed and brutality, there’s camaraderie, forgiveness, understanding – above all, humanity in times largely devoid of it. And in spite of the looming air of despair, there’s room left for hope. Land Of Mine is anti-war cinema at its most powerful.

By Joe Muldoon.


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