Land of Mine | Movie Review
LAND OF MINE was the first movie I viewed at the 2016 Sydney Film Festival. It is one of the most powerful war movies filmed in years that will truly rip your heart out. Further to this it is also a work of art that has won international awards around the world and was my favourite film from the SFF. Palace Films purchased the rights to LAND OF MINE and a little birdie advises it will get an Australian January 2017 release. The movie’s rating is MA15+ and it runs for 101mins. Be warned you need to be strong to see this harrowing movie, there were moments I was openly weeping.
BY JASON KING
LAND OF MINE SYNOPSIS:
It is the end of WWII – Germany has lost and it is time for post-occupation clean up. Prisoners of war in Denmark are used to clean up the somewhat 1.4MIL to 2MIL landmines that fill the Denmark coastline. These were planted by the Germans during their five year occupation. As the war was coming to an end the Germans threw as many men as they could into their war effort. Sadly some of these men were not yet men.
This is “mostly” based on true accounts and involves a group of teenage boys, some of who don’t even look like they have started high-school. They are forced into a section of the coast line, and following rudimentary training are set to task, their lives be damned. The catch is, they are told if they clean all their landmines they can go home, if I remember clearly their section was 45000 mines.
It is a time of hatred and tiredness. Hatred towards the boys who were part of the German army that occupied the Denmark lands for five years. And tired because both sides are weary after five years of war. Sadly the boys are caught in the middle of this, they still want their mums and should be at home reading books and playing games. But instead we see them crawling through landmines and losing their friends next to them. No child should ever have to witness this or be a part of this. THE END!
Director, Martin Zandvliet, best known for 2009’s APPLAUSE masterfully weaves this gut wrenching, emotionally manipulative movie. He had a simple and powerful story that he himself wrote, mostly based on actual events. From go to woe LAND OF MINE is an emotional rollercoaster that will hug you, slap you and punch you in the stomach. Zandvliet tells a WWII movie seventy years after the time. There is more WWII movies I can count and he still manages to make it fresh and powerful.
He also manipulates the audience so well, all these youths are gorgeous, innocent and terrified young boys. From the first scene every audience member is empathically tied to their characters, as such, seeing them blown to bits will take its toll. Seeing twins terrified in one of the opening scenes who hold each other’s hands was a precursor for me. I knew nothing good would come of that and tried to prepare myself to be emotionally pummelled. Nothing could stop the scenes where this critic openly wept.
If you scroll to the bottom you will see I have awarded LAND OF MINE 5 POPS, that is perfection. Exceptional cinematography and editing earn LAND OF MINE one of those stars. Plus the colourist must be mentioned (I cannot locate a name). Every frame of this movie is artistically crafted. Camilla Helm lenses everything from extreme close-ups, action sequences, to harrowing explosive scenes with more than aplomb. Complimenting this is the exceptional punchy editing that seamlessly tells the tale. The colourisation of the movie is exceptional with strong contrasts and impeccable tones. Everything is rich but with a sense of mild desaturation, the film is just stunning to see.
Further to this special mention can go to the art department, the special effects, the costumes, the music, the sound, to everybody on the cast. The movie is a true collaborative alignment of talent and it payed off.
The opening scene of the movie sees Sgt. Carl Rasmussen (Roland Møller – A HIGHJACKING) horribly beat a prisoner soldier who is being marched. He is tired now the war is over and angry that it has ever occurred, can he be blamed? Unfortunately Sgt. Rasmussen is the boys “warden,” he is tasked with ensuring they remove the mines. And as the movie starts you realise he is going to be a task-master asshole, a man twisted by war who will take it out on the boys. However no one can possibly be immune to the pain and suffering of youth, anyone devoid of this empathy is not human. And so we see Rasmussen gain empathy for the boys, then attachments for the boys and ultimately responsibility for their welfare.
Møller is exceptional as one of the only adults in the movie, his strength and delivery is Oscar worthy.
Likewise the same can be said for the powerful and exceptional performance from Louis Hofmann as Sebastian Schumann (pictured below). Schumann is the natural spokesman/ leader for the boys and Hofmann’s performance was the highlight of the movie for me. Schumann is the audience in LAND OF MINE, I was attuned to his journey and the pain he felt was what destroyed me in that cinema.
There were quite a few boys in the beginning and all of them were superb actors. As a result I cannot mention them all but special mention must got to the twins, Emil and Oskar Belton. These brothers have a terrible arc that was like the nail in the coffin of Schumann’s witness. Schumann’s journey destroyed me, these boys then stomped on me and set me on fire.
Don’t take my word for it – the awards speak for themselves. LAND OF MINE has eighteen wins from international film festivals for various nominations. Additionally it was even nominated for “BEST PICTURE” at the Sydney Film Festival. Most notable wins is firstly Louis Hofmann winning best actor at the Beijing International Film Festival. And my personal favourite; Roland Møller and Louis Hofmann sharing the best actor award at the Tokyo International Film festival. That one nearly had me tearing up, the single moment of tenderness in the film is a macabre “boom” joke (in the trailer below) between those two.
LAND OF MINE stays simple in its delivery of a remarkable moment in history. Brilliantly it does so by not showing judgement on either of the opposing sides.
In this both sides are tired of war and while Germany was horrendous in their WWII actions, Denmark pretty much breached every rule of ethics in prisoner treatment. But that being said it is not preachy of Denmark and this movie is a joint Denmark/ German production, something that makes me warm on the inside.
For me 5 POPS is earned when the movie planets align. Every department of the film, every actor, every frame is shot and earned masterfully, and I cannot fault LAND OF MINE. I will see it again in cinemas in January, call it self torture, and it will undoubtedly sit in my Top 5 of 2016. Additionally this will be Denmark’s entry for the BEST FOREIGN MOVIE at the 2017 Oscars. Bravo, you got my vote, if only that meant anything haha.
CURRENT STATE OF AFFAIRS:
Finally – from research I have two accounts of the current state of the Danish coast still having landmines. One states that it wasn’t until 2012 that the Danish coastline was considered free of landmines. Take that in – 68yrs later. Sadly the second account I can find states there still remains approximately 9900 German WW2 landmines on the west coast of Denmark in the area of Skallingen. Horrendous.
Jason King owns, writes and edits Salty Popcorn and Spooning Australia. He is a movie, food, restaurant, wine, chocolate, bacon, burger and brussels sprouts addict. He is a member of the Australian Film Critics Association and has been in the Australian movie industry for 25yrs. Furthermore he loves watching people trip over and is Leonardo DiCaprio’s biggest fan.
** Images used are courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher C.edit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.