Emitting a relentless aura of erratic danger, ‘Land of Mine’ emotionally drains you halfway through before further pummeling your will to watch all the way past the swift 100-minute runtime. Writer/Director Martin Zandvliet conceives a drab, shocking, and morally perplexing study of post-war German realism through a dozen young German POWs forced to defuse thousands of Nazi landmines under the guidance of the strict and patriotic Sgt. Carl (Roland Moller). The film is an intelligent allegory of WW2’s affect on the future of Germany, but rarely does ‘Land of Mine’ cease its looming anxiety in favor of its purpose, only slowing down to allow audiences a breather. Naturally, however, with a land full of mines one can never get too comfortable.
Employing plenty of close-ups, Zandvliet overflows the frame with the grime and debility etched into the fiber of each boy – cloaking their golden hair and deep blue eyes, which scream terror and helplessness to no avail. The Danish director commits wholly to the empathy of the boys’, severing any and all ties to Nazism in lieu of their indisputably daunting youth. If not busy meticulously sliding metal rods into the sand in search of the combustible traps, the film continually admonishes us of their innocence in the tender handling and fascination of wild creatures or dashing barefoot freely along the beach. And when we do catch a glimpse of a swastika pinned on the boys’ rugged uniforms, instead of representing a powerful force it rather enforces Germany’s growing tragedy.
As much as the film exploits the soldiers thematically, the story is really more concerned with Sgt. Carl. Articulated in a brutal introduction, Moller profusely expresses his loyalty to Denmark in vigorously seizing what one would assume to be the Dannebrog from a German POW, afterwards repeatedly roaring, “This land is mine! Do you hear me? This land is mine!” as the line of Germans continue their trudge. It’s only when the Sargent is assigned the troop of young Nazis does his patriotism waver, suggesting his responsibility to guard these boys to death is no different from the German government who put them there in the first place. The ending as a result is bittersweet. In its abruptness it places more emphasis on the soldiers’ arc, which is neither disappointing nor unforeseen, but leaves Carl’s narrative unfulfilled – made increasingly so by a especially heated scene prior.
In similar fashion to ‘All Quiet On The Western Front,’ an expendable, albeit more than capable cast only improve their existing talent when working off one another over striving for individual glory. Moller, though, rightfully grabs the spotlight – exhibiting explosive rage, made progressively unpredictable in contrast to several tender moments, not all of which are exclusive to their individual scenes. Mikkel Boe Folsgaard as Lt. Ebbe, on the other hand, was a bolder casting decision due to a more youthful complexion. Yet in stark contradiction to his rank and power over Carl, Ebbe (or rather Folsgaard) effortlessly adds a deeper amount of menace and jarring grudge to the young Lieutenant in his hostility towards the Germans.
But who can blame him? After all, they are Nazis. Right?
‘Land of Mine’ receives a 4.0/5