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.)
Before I came to UTS I was working at the Australian War Memorial. In late 2008 I visited Iraq and the Northern Arabian Gulf area for the Memorial, collecting and recording records of war before all Australian forces were withdrawn. This post from the AWM website explains:
Recently I was advised by a former colleague that some of the photos I took (including the image above) are now available on the AWM website (which means they’ve finally cleared security):