Land of Mine, an outstanding Danish-German co-production, ventures off the beaten track of traditional war drama to new, stirring ground.
Stoic Sgt Carl (Rolland Moller), charged with fourteen young German PoWs following the liberation of Denmark in 1945, forces the boys to clear 45,000 landmines off a beach before they can go home. An opening sequence where each in succession is required to defuse a mine is an exemplar of suspense, the whole film a tension-filled slow-burner where the calm of the beach can knowingly be interrupted at any moment by a very sudden explosion.
Despite not being set during a war, Land of Mine is in every sense a war picture. The casualties are as immediate as they are graphic, emphasising as well as any other epic the erratic, tragic and dehumanising realities of armed conflict through sustained shots on what for many will be very confronting. An opening sequence at war’s end, superbly executed by Moller, serving throughout as the film’s emotional anchor, aptly sets the tone for Land of Mine as Carl unleashes his unrelenting antagonism on the boys, at once resentful of the German occupation yet fully cognisant of the daunting task facing his troop.
Focused on several of the prisoners, many carve out their own spot in the film and some very distinct relationships with their Sergeant. A recurring soundtrack lends itself to the film’s gradually disorientating feel as the tragedy becomes almost routine; the events’ frequency, rather than normalizing the circumstances, conversely creating a deeper sense of empathy amongst the various characters that gives Land of Mine its most emphatic and emotive edge.
Told from Carl’s point of view, at the outset resolute to get the job done at any cost, the story evolves thrillingly in a film that is staggeringly affecting, suspenseful and well worth your time.
Land of Mine is currently screening at the Sydney Film Festival on Sunday June 12, Monday June 13 and Sunday June 19, for tickets head to the Festival website