Inspired by true events, the 2016 Oscar-nominated foreign film “Land of Mine” is a harrowing depiction of what many consider to be Denmark’s worst war crime.
Nazi Germany buried 1.5 million mines along Denmark’s coast in preparation for an invasion by the Allied forces that never took place. After World War II ended, more than 2,000 German prisoners were sent to disarm those landmines. “Land of Mine” focuses on fourteen German teenage prisoners who are forced to defuse 45,000 mines from a Danish beach, restoring it for future use. Promised a return to their homes upon defusing all the mines, the life-threatening mission begins.
“Land of Mine” powerfully conveys the Danes’ bitterness towards the Nazi occupation, a rage so terrible that dismembered or exploding young boys were an acceptable, if uncomfortable, consequence. The exploitation and death of children is viewed as collateral damage, the price of war. As the cycle of victim and tormentor are reversed,– the Nazi boys by Danish soldiers– the Danes turn off their humanity.
Perhaps the most memorable arc in an extraordinary story is the dramatic change in Sergeant Carl Rasmussen, a Danish soldier put in charge of the boys at a desolate outpost. Feeling a visceral hatred for his enemy, Rasmussen is brutal and indifferent, demonstrating his affection only towards his dog.
With its philosophical and psychological dramatization of dehumanizing the enemy, “Land of Mine” is profoundly anti-war. The tranquillity of the beach is painfully contrasted with what lies beneath the sand. With bare hands, crawling and trembling, the German teenagers–half-starved and terrified–have no choice but to comply. There is no escape. With every landmine that explodes, the viewer is as surprised as the boys who are trying to defuse the bombs. Not one moment is safe. And the boys cry out for their mothers.
The cinematography in “Land of Mine” captures not only the beautiful Danish seascape, but also the desperate, bewildered mood of teenagers who never wanted to be soldiers.
Note: “Land of Mine” is currently playing in select indie movie theaters.