LAND OF MINE

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4 stars
A little known chapter of history saw young Nazi soldiers clear landmines in Denmark. Having lost WWII, these POW’s were given a job after which, if they lived, they could go home.
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But clearing landmines is no walk in the park. Nor is Land Of Mine, an outstanding award winner from Danish writer/director Martin Zandvliet; and crowd pleaser at last year’s Sydney Film Festival.

At the end of the war, 2.2 million live mines littered the Danish coastline. A no-nonsense veteran of the hostilities, Sgt Rasmussen is tasked with removing at least some of them, and given a group of teenage Germans to do the dirty work. He has little sympathy for their plight or their age, at least at first. Soon he begins to realise that the boys are unsuitable for the deadly work, if only for the emotional scaring they’ll endure, assuming they even survive the ordeal. This immoral treatment he reasons, is not what he or his country fought for. An unusual relationship builds between captives and captor as they realise they’ve all become victims in their own way.

Land Of Mine is a fascinating character study that should have amateur historians and psychologists dissecting the story long into the night. Clearly a personal journey for Zandvliet, he’s helped in his quest to bring light to an exceptional story by an exceptional cast in turn led by Roland Møller’s blistering performance as Rasmussen. Surprisingly, given the context and nature of the story, there’s a gentle beauty to both the visual treatment and the emotional underscore, one that’s at stark odds to turmoil playing out on screen. This juxtaposition turns what would otherwise be just another period drama into a winner.

Not that the ‘based on true events’ narrative doesn’t have its role to play, such was the expected turn when their patch is finally cleared but Rasmussen’s senior officer intervenes: instead of sending the boys home, he dispatches them to another minefield to start their task anew. Tensions boil over for all concerned, bringing Zandvliet’s film to a stark, nail-biting climax. Unsurprisingly Land Of Mine is not an easy watch. Yet it is a deeply rewarding one that whose central theme – the imperative to guard our moral compass – is both timely and timeless.

// COLIN FRASER

Previewed at Event Cinemas, George Street, Sydney, on 6 March 2017
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STARRING
Roland Møller
Louis Hofmann
Joel Basman

DIRECTOR
Martin Zandvliet

SCREENWRITER
Martin Zandvliet

COUNTRY
Denmark (subtitles)

CLASSIFICATION
MA15+

RUNTIME
101 minutes

AUSTRALIAN
RELEASE DATE
March 30, 2017
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Land of Mine (2015) on IMDb
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