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LAND OF MINE

LAND-OF-MINE-BEACHDirected by Martin Zandvliet
Starring Rolland Moller, Louis Hoffman, Mikkel Boe Folsgaard

By the end of World War 2 Denmark was ringed by millions of land-mines as German attempted to secure fortress Europe. With peace declared Denmark kept thousands of German prisoners of war and set them to work clearing those mines. With little time, equipment or training, the attrition rate was horrendous.

This German- Danish co-production sheds some light on this little known piece of history, by showing one such group of boys. Under the command of a Danish Sargent (Rolland Moller), who obviously doesn’t care if they live or die, they are given the task of clearing a beach of its unexploded ordinance. To get home, they need to clear six mines an hour for three months straight. No matter of hunger, or sickness, or weather. The slightest mistake could easily be their last.

Land Of Mine is cruelly effective of keeping the audience in suspense. That edge of the seat tension is prominent through all the sequences of the team disarming mines. In part this is due the incredible detailed work placed into the use of sound. We are often aware of nothing but the breathing of an individual (something utilised from the very first scene). It overwhelms our senses, constricts our chest and makes our heart race in turn, as we subconsciously match in turn.

Yet it is not just technical trickery that causes this tension. We empathise with the characters, we fear for their safety and well being. Let that sink in for a moment. Land Of Mine has us caring about Nazis – the disposable bad guys of history that Harrison Ford carves through like the wrath of God in the Indiana Jones films. It’s because these are not the cruel conquerors or the experienced veterans, these are just young boys desperately thrown into the meat-grinder of the war when nothing else is left. They dream of finding work back home, of experiencing life, and cry for their mothers when things go horribly wrong.
Inevitably, things go horribly wrong, and each is a shock for us in the audience.

That is the fundamental anti-war message of Land Of Mine. That war kills fellow human beings. Each enemy is a son, or a brother, or a father. Each have dreams, and hopes, and fears – just like us. It humanises the “other”. Such a simple message, but so easy to forget as we become embittered by rage (no matter how justified).

A beautiful and tense watch.

Land of Mine is showing as part of the Scandinavian Film Festival from the 21st July – 3rd August.

DAVID O’CONNELL

 

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