Starring: Roland Møller, Louis Hofmann, Joel Basman
Director: Martin Zandvliet
Running Time: 100 mins
Land Of Mine (Under sandet) is a Danish film about a group of young German POWs who are forced to clean up the mines left behind on the beaches of Denmark by the German army at the end of the Second World War.
This is an absolutely fantastic film. Taking a forgotten part of World War Two history and giving it the attention it fully deserves, Land Of Mine is a brutal and intense piece that shows the hardships that individuals were forced to go through on account of their governments’ actions, and with a whole host of moving performances, heavy-going drama and spellbinding cinematography, this film brings that to light in truly stunning fashion from start to finish.
There’s so much about this film that makes it such a powerful watch, but it’s the history that it focuses on that’s most stunning of all. The Second World War has been the focus of films ever since the day it ended, and yet the majority do look at the conflict in a rather black-and-white manner, as a simple good guys vs. bad guys fight, and little more depth of focus than that.
Of course, it’s a formula that’s made for some fantastically entertaining war films over the years, however the way Land Of Mine portrays the conflict brings about emotions and thoughts that no other film has ever done for me.
Centring on a group of young German soldiers who remain captured in Denmark after the end of the war, the movie shows the intense hardship and retribution that normal, innocent German men suffered, all because they were seen to represent the evils of the Nazi regime that much of the world was fighting to defeat.
Apart from the fact that I really didn’t know about this part of history just after the war, I was really moved by the way in which the film showed just how hard the conflict had been on the men who were always demonised as the enemy, even when they may have just been young and innocent people caught up in something they had no control over.
In that, the movie provides a deeply powerful portrayal of the nature of warfare and its impact on the individual, which is far more understated than the truth, as we see these young men forced into a gruelling three months of risking their lives to clear the mess left behind by others, brilliantly garnering your sympathy as we their brutal endeavour goes from hardship to hardship.
What’s more is that there’s a very unique emotional core to the movie that’s also not often present in the war genre. As well as the brutality of the soldiers’ situation, there’s a fascinating side to the story that sees the Sergeant who oversees their clean-up grow to understand their plight, bringing a tender and soft edge to the story that introduces a beautiful glimmer of hope, as we see a man who once seemed to hate all Germans for what they did during the war come to realise the truth of the individuals who were caught up through no fault of their own.
Roland Møller’s performance as the Sergeant is fantastic throughout, as he pulls off the intensity and brutality of his character brilliantly, while still bringing the man’s more caring and human side to the forefront, making him a fascinating character to watch throughout, and one who perfectly epitomises the film’s central theme.
What’s more is that the movie is beautifully directed throughout by Martin Zandvliet, and in tandem with jaw-dropping cinematography and a deeply affecting score, the atmosphere captures that hardship and brutality in an instant, yet its elegance really plays a large role in bringing that more emotional and humane side to the story to light, a fantastic and difficult-to-reach balance that’s achieved in stunning fashion from beginning to end.
Overall, I was stunned by Land Of Mine. It’s a deeply powerful and utterly riveting film that brings to light a part of history that you may have seen many times before, but never in this manner. With deep emotion from beginning to end that counteracts an often brutal and even harrowing story of hardship, it’s a movie that goes from strength to strength throughout, and that’s why I’m giving it an 8.2.