The English language title of the film might not be the most subtle way of putting it, but you will be under no illusion what you are getting into in LAND OF MINE. The setting is the west coast of Denmark in 1945, just after the war and the surrender of the German troops. The Danish authorities have determined that the best way of ridding the beaches of the legacy of 1.5 million land mines that the invading forces have left there is to get their German prisoners to do it themselves.
Sergeant Rasmussen (Roland Møller) has been given a dozen young German captives, all young boys, to carry out the task of cleaning up a section of beach that contains no less than 45,000 mines. The Germans have had the foresight to map where the mines are planted, but by no means does that make their task any easier. After some basic training that lacks any niceties and results in a few casualties – there’s obviously no room for mistakes here – they’re set to work methodically covering the beach and probing the sand to find and disarm the mines.
a situation where every minute is a tense one, the viewer kept permanently on edge…
It’s hard to know what is more terrifying in LAND OF MINE. As you can imagine there is the constant threat of a young boy being blown to pieces at any minute – young men that you gradually come to know and feel for – but the Danish sergeant in charge of them is no less a threat and just as explosive. Either way, the position of the young men after the war is a precarious one, where any indication of a return to normality on the surface is always accompanied by a brutal reminder of the underlying legacy of what has been left behind after the war.
So this is what you are in for; a situation where every minute is a tense one, the viewer kept permanently on edge, wincing anxiously as the probes are pushed down into the sand. You know what is likely to happen, that’s it’s just a matter of time, and undoubtedly it’s going to be just at that moment when you think you can let down your guard for a second. LAND OF MINE is extraordinarily well-crafted in this respect, holding the viewer’s attention without ever letting up on the momentum, but there’s also much more to the film than it being just an agonising sequence of moments of building up and releasing of tension.
Some of the plot points and the characterisation are admittedly predictable if you think about it. Inevitably, a camaraderie develops at the same time as the viewer gradually gets to know the personalities of the boys, and despite his formidable presence a human side of Sergeant Rasmussen is revealed. That is perhaps only predictable in as much as it reflects human behaviour and the historical accuracy of the period and the situation. Otherwise, even if you think you know what is coming next, this is a film where you find you can’t look away from the screen for even a second.