I had not really intended on writing a review for Land of Mine, a film made in 2015 but not receiving an American premiere until late 2016. This film came and went within the blink of an eye. No one, outside of Hollywood insiders has even heard of this film. Land of Mine is a film from Denmark and it was barely released in time to qualify for the Academy Awards which requires films to be released in America in so many cities, screens and by December. Thus, Land of Mine is only now coming to DVD and On Demand within the last few months (since July) of 2017. What a shame. This is a gut-wrenching, heartbreaking war film that is utterly crushing in spirit but still manages to end with a positive message of hope and forgiveness.
The film stars Roland Moller as Carl, a Sargent in the Danish military who is tasked with finding captured Nazi soldiers in order to put to work diffusing landmines that ran all along the coast of Denmark. There were rumored to be one to two million of these things. Carl is none too pleased to be stuck on this babysitting assignment but he is an honorable soldier so he accepts. His recruits arrive and they are all barely in their mid-teens. Fresh-faced, young boys who have no idea what they are in for. Sure they were forced to fight for Hitler in the waning days of World War 2, but most of these new recruits are just scared young lads who want to go home, just like Carl.
At first, Carl is a terror on them. Rightfully angry for what the Germans have done to their country, he is violent, abusive and as hateful as can be. He drives his jeep up the column of captured Nazi POW’s only stopping to pull a couple out of line to beat them senseless. He is a man possessed and he is justified. The Nazi’s did horrendous things to the countries they invaded and even a local widow whose house sits on the very beach the recruits will be working on, wishes the boys nothing but pain and hardship. Carl’s arch as a character is truly amazing to behold and it is believable, as well. Not just because the film requires but because it grows out the character, himself thanks to the terrific writing of Martin Zandvliet.
Now, on the face of it, Land of Mine and its double entendre title might sound like a bit a snoozer. But what makes this film special is its script written by Martin Zandvliet who also directs. His script is thoughtful, compassionate and heartfelt. Each character is realistically portrayed most notably Louise Hofmann as Sebastian Schumann, who is the only recruit that is not afraid of Carl but wants to give and receive Carl’s respect. Little Emil Belton is another lad who plays Ernst who keeps searching for his lost brother, Werner (played by Emil’s real-life twin brother Oskar). Their relationship is extremely sweet and you realize how much they rely on each other in this film. The real standout is Roland Moller as Carl. His performance is mesmerizingly shocking. One minute he is spewing, spitting and slapping his recruits and the next day he understands their situation a little more and understands what makes them tick, as well.
There is a mutual respect that begins to permeate their little camp, but they are dismantling landmines, so this is not going to end well for some of them. Suffice to say there are some scenes which will make you weep. However, this is an immensely powerful film, beautifully acted, written and directed. The score by Sune Martin is tragically hopeful and the cinematography by Camilla Hjelm is stunning. The film does a great job of displaying the beauty of their surroundings but still conveying the immense danger that still exists and takes its toll on everyone involved. This is a foreign film that is subtitled in Danish and German with only one scene that has some English dialogue. If you can get past the subtitles, Land of Mine is worth your time.
Land of Mine – ***** out of 5
Land of Mine – Rated R for graphic violence and language
Land of Mine – Run Time is 100 minutes
Land of Mine is now available on DVD, On Demand and subscription services. Check for availability and pricing.