Coming to Blu-ray, DVD and Digital on June 6th from writer/director Martin Zandvliet and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is childhood gone war with “Land of Mine.”
It is the year 1945 after the end of the war with Germany on the shores of Denmark. Sgt. Carl Rasmussen (Roland Møller) is given the duty of removing 2.2 million mines along the Danish West Coast. Ordered to make the beaches safe is his primary and painstaking job.
Arriving to do the job is a group of Germany boys Sebastian (Louis Hofmann), Helmut (Joel Basman), Ludwig (Oskar Bokelmann), Wilhelm (Leon Seidel), Manfred (Lark Seidel), August (Maximillan Beck), Rudolf (August Carter), Hermann (Tim Bülow) and the twin brothers Ernest (Emil Belton) and Werner (Oskar Belton).
Clearly afraid, the boys make it clear to their captors that they will do the job well because they just want to go home. Rasmussen doesn’t show any empathy for the boys while teaching them during the day and boarding them up in a shed by night without food.
The boys soon realize that they are not going to be able to go on without food and sneak out to find anything they can. Discovering what is happening, Rasmussen realizes that these are merely boys and tries to help them even though the townspeople and Lt. Ebbe Jensen (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard) would rather they meet an ugly end.
Rasmussen even becomes compassionate with the boys and befriends Sebastian somewhat hearing his story and that of the other boys. He reaffirms to them that they will be going home once the beaches are cleared.
One afternoon could change everything when an accident brings out the ugliness that Carl once felt and Ebbe is ready to send the boys to another minefield.
This is where a life altering moment can happen — but will it?
Møller as Rasmussen hits the screen immediately as a man who has no humanity of the German soldiers who destroyed his country. Making it clear he is not a man to be played, he keeps his eye on the goal — to take out every mine every placed on the shores of Denmark. Møller gives his character anger, resentment and even a callousness that is frightening.
Hofmann as Sebastian is a boy with hope on so many levels — hope they will eat, hope they will get the job done, hope they will go home and all while trying to survive. Although the character of Sebastian sees a lot it can be easy to forget through the film that he is a boy hoping to make it to manhood. Hofmann gives his character heart and charm.
The Belton brothers play Ernest and Werner and I don’t think I can recall the last time I was so moved by two characters love for one another. The stronger looks out for the weaker but never out of pity, out of dedication and the will for them both to survive. Absolutely beautiful!
Basman, Bokelmann, Seidel, Lark Seidel, Beck, Carter, and Bülow play young men who know they are in a desperate situation. Forced to fight in a war they had no business being in, they are now paying for the sins of others. Watching their characters work together, struggle together and even occasionally struggle against one another is heartbreaking with every move they make on the beach. Well done young men, well done!
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Although the Geneva Convention of 1929 forbade using prisoners of war to do dangerous work, the British and Danish commands might have changed the wording to “voluntarily surrendered enemy personnel” to get around the Convention. The boys from 15-18 years of age were used to clear out the Danish coastline of all the mines left by German forces which took over five months.
This film is a marathon of emotions from the first frame until the end. From the ugliness of war to the anger of those left behind, this film captures the stark realities of what is left after war. Every scene carries in it the cruelty and turmoil that people can do to one another and even the compassion brings about distrust due to fear.
My heart went out to the boys and every time they walked the beach I physically held my breath! That is what this amazing cast has done for this film, leaving the viewer drained not even realizing it has happened until the credits roll.
The cinematography is equally as stunning and graceful giving the film an added character in the film. The intensity of the boys on the beach doing such a dangerous job would not have the same impact without the amazing shoreline shots.
Director Zandvliet also directed “Applause,” “A Funny Man” and is in the process of his new film, “The Outsider.” He had brought a mixture of war with twists in a piece of history many may never have known.
“Land of Mine” was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year. It has won the Audience Award for the AFI Fest, won the Tiantian Award for Best Actor at the Beijing International Film Festival, also Best Actor for the Bodil Awards, Carlo di Palma Award at the European Film Awards, Gijon International Film Festival, Goteborg Film Festival, Hong Kong International Film Festival and the list goes on and on.
The Blu-ray includes the Special Feature of a Conversation with Director Martin Zandvliet which I highly recommend making time for.
In the end — they survived World War II now they must survive the clearing!