Land of Mine is a very grim and sobering film. Set in 1945, it tells us a little known story of the de-mining of the coast of Denmark immediately after the Second World War. After Germany’s surrender we follow a group of teenage German boys, obviously conscripted late in the war, who were sent to Denmark to remove mines from its coastline. Apparently some 2,000 German ex-soldiers were forced to de-mine these beaches and over 1,000 of them died or suffered debilitating injuries as a result.
From the very beginning this film is brutally realistic in its approach. Perhaps it is necessary if the anti-war message is ever to be widely understood. So we are introduced to the consequences of war with an abundance of violence, destruction, revenge, loss of life, waste, blame, guilt and victimisation. Very little is held back and there are many graphically realistic scenes of sheer horror.
One of the keys to the power of this film is that the cast look and act so authentically, making in even more shocking. The Danish sergeant in charge of the group of the boys, played by Roland Møller, has obviously either seen the results of German excesses during the war itself, but we are not given any details. All of the young German boys look so innocent and somewhat ashamed of their country’s role in the war. It is so effective and powerful because I think they actually are teenagers, not 24 year olds playing teenagers as is so often the case.
As the film develops, it slowly introduces and explores other emotions and the consequences of war: loss, grief, empathy, friendship, love, sympathy and perhaps forgiveness.
The film is beautifully shot, from the scenery of the Danish coastline to the close-up shots of the boys nervous hands removing detonators from the mines.
It is such a powerful film that I wonder whether it should be compulsory viewing for any politician wanting to send young people off to war or willing to spend more money on the awful industries that manufacture these horribly destructive weapons.
My Bruce McAvaney Specialness Rating*: 4/5 (Most people would think this to be special.)
I saw this at its premier in the Dendy Opera Quays. William was there as were many of those featured in the images like Kate Fitzpatrick and Jenny Kee. George Gittoes was there too representing those from the Yellow House years who could not attend (like Martin Sharp) and those who had passed like Brett Whiteley. I caught up with George after the film as we had spent some time together in Iraq a few years back. He told me he was just back from Afghanistan and introduced me to a friend who was curating an exhibition of his work from those years. So, back to the film …
It is a film that documents one of his live performances, in this case 10/11 “My Generation”. I saw this live in Carriage Works back in 2009 I think and I still love it. I really like the way he carefully provides just enough context for his photographs, preferring to let his images talk for him. William has documented a fascinating period of Australian cultural (and gay) history that features those named above as well as many other significant figures including Patrick White, Jimmy Sharman, Rex Cramphorn, Little Nell Campbell, Margaret Fink, and Linda Jackson. This film is a visual potted history of that part of Sydney in the 80s and 90s.
I think it is wonderful and I think it is also being broadcast on ABC TV on 16 June, so don’t miss it. If you’ve not seen one of his performances and can remember the 80s and 90s it will ring many bells.
5/5 because I loved it and I think William is a national treasure.