Denmark; Directed by Martin Zandvliet



Directed by: Martin Zandvliet
Screenplay by: Martin Zandvliet
Cinematography by: Camilla Hjelm Knudsen
Music by: Sune Martin
Distributed by: Nordisk Film
Release Date: January 22, 2016 (Sundance)
Budget: $5.1 million
Country: Denmark

FILM SYNOPSIS: After the end of World War II in Europe, a dozen German POWs are ordered to defuse 45,000 landmines buried by the Germans on a beach near a small Danish town. Rasmussen, the Danish sergeant in command, hates Germans but gradually becomes protective of his charges, most of whom are only teenagers.

Ever wonder who cleans up the messes after wars? In “Land Of Mine,” we get a dramatic look at the answer. This Danish-German film centers around a group of German boys taken as Prisoners of War. Instead of internment camps, they are taken to a beach where there are 1,000s of land mines buried in the sand and their job is to clear them using metal prods to find them and their hands to disarm them. The man in charge of them, Sgt. Carl Leopold Rasmussen (Roland Møller), is a proud Danish officer and in an early scene even attacks a young German man being marched away by troops. His interaction with the boys on the beach is that of a drill officer, offering no food, no rest, and a cold shoulder to any requests. But as the dangers of the work become real and the Sergeant begins identifying with their youth, the entire dynamic shifts in what has to be a grueling inner-monologue, and Møller provides an Oscar-worthy performance in and of itself. On one hand, these boys were in the war. “Old enough fight, old enough to clean up.” But on the other hand, they are just boys who want to go home and that cry for their mothers when they get hurt. Turmoil fills every emotional and physical crevice of this film.

The entire film is a powder keg, with the lives of the characters constantly in the balance. You literally never know when someone is going to lose their life, so the viewer is constantly in a state of suspense. Every so often, the filmmaker lures you out of that tense state with a false sense of security and tonal shifts, but it always comes back to the fact that most of these boys will probably die. It’s just a matter of when and who will go first. Despite that unpredictability, the film does telegraph a lot of its story-telling. Rasmussen is instantly painted as this hard ass, but you know that eventually he will come around and form an attachment. The boys are also told that they can go home when they are finished sweeping the beach for mines, but the way its expressed is basically a slap in the face that this is probably not true and with scenes of one of the boys discussing what dreams he has of going home after this, it’s spelled out quite clearly that there is no going home.

On a technical front, “Land Of Mine” is expertly executed, with vivid imagery, a richness that comes through in both color and range, and set pieces that make you feel like you are in the era. The beaches in particular offer a unique backdrop and mixed with the extraordinary subject matter of kids digging up mines, this definitely has everything needed to stand out from the crowd of foreign language films in any given year.

What’s its competition? With “Land Of Mine” being the first of the foreign language films I have seen this year, I am mainly going on what I’ve heard in regards to this category. “Elle” would have probably been the favorite, had it been nominated, but since it did not, “Toni Erdmann” appears to be the front-runner, offering a much more humorous candidate that could grab Academy member’s attention rather than bumming them out. “A Man Called Ove” did decent at the box office this year for a foreign film that not many had heard of and also garnished a Best Makeup/Hairstyling nomination, proving that the Academy is well aware of it. And an Academy favorite director in Asghar Farhadi (“A Separation”) could steal the show, though already having a win under his belt does not give his potential win any sort of urgency. In my opinion, “Land Of Mine” sets the bar fairly high in this category, and sight unseen, will likely be my pick for what “should” win.

Previous nominations? This is the twelfth Academy Award nomination for Denmark. Previous nominations were:

  • A WAR (2015)
    Nominee, Foreign Language Film
  • THE HUNT (2013)
    Nominee, Foreign Language Film
  • A ROYAL AFFAIR (2012)
    Nominee, Foreign Language Film
  • IN A BETTER WORLD (2010)
    Winner, Foreign Language Film
    Nominee, Foreign Language Film
    Nominee, Foreign Language Film
    Winner, Foreign Language Film
  • BABETTE’S FEAST (1987)
    Winner, Foreign Language Film
    Nominee, Foreign Language Film
  • PAW (1959)
    Nominee, Foreign Language Film
  • QIVITOQ (1956)
    Nominee, Foreign Language Film

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// Produced by Malte Grunert and Mikael Chr. Rieks // Directed by Martin Zandvliet //
// Dated Viewed: Thursday, January 26th, 2017 // STREAMING // 44 films – 32 days //

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