Land of Mine (Danish, 2015) – Breathing Humanity
Films of the war genre often center on action and settle down as fast paced action thrillers. Yet, we do have movies that are humane dramas in the war backdrop. Roberto Benigni’s ‘Life is Beautiful’ (1997) is a classic example that crosses my mind instantly. ‘Martin Zandvliet’s ‘Land of Mine’ is a Danish post war drama set in historical backdrop of German’s leaving the Danish soil, while the Danish authorities are forcing German POWs (prisoners of war), mostly boys to find and diffuse the land mines their men have buried along the Danish coasts.
The film follows a Sergeant Carl Rasmussen and his team of German teens assigned to clear the West Coast. Reading the plot summery I never thought I might just witness an engaging drama, but after the film, I would say it was gripping and emotionally moving. The entire team of teens has no reason to breathe a sigh of relief. They are almost nil equipped and could only dream of mercy from Sgt. Carl. The boy are made to dig the mines bare handed and starved.
As the drama, unfolds further it poetically brings about one of the best cinematic portrayals of character transformation through Sgt. Carl’s character. We witness his transformation of Carl from a heartless leader-in-charge to a man wrapping his teammates with the warmth of his love.
The love he develops for the boys is to the likeness of Oskar Schindler of Schindler’s List (1993). As I was through the film I also got reminded of Hauptmann Wiesler (character) of Lives of Others (2006). Perhaps it rang a bell because of the German linkage between the two films. Besides, it is interesting to note the way the central characters of these three films share similarities. The pivotal charaters in all the three films sit in the authoritarian chairs keenly waiting to crush those foreigners whose fate hangs at their mercy. Later we see dramatic (not quick, but slow and strong) transformation in their personalities making them the saviors of those people they once exploited.
The plot development presenting the affectionate bonding that Carl develops with the boys is remarkable. The geographical landscape where the drama happens is very vast, aloof and lonely. While fewer characters roam around this land of sleeping danger, slowly the humaneness embraces them. Roland Moller as Carl has done a stupendous job. His portrayal of the character is so drawing that you can’t resist falling in love with him in the climax. The climatic sequence is of course very cinematic, in and out. Yet, it’s better to close some dramas that are emotionally intense, with cinematic endings. That’s soothes.
It bagged quite a lot of positive reviews across the film circuits and it went on to become the official entry to best foreign language film to the Oscars, from Denmark. It was interesting to read that except the backdrop the entire film has been written on fictional characters. Land of mines exemplifies how engaging cinema could be made in the historical fiction genre.
If you’re seeking an action packed war film lover, wait. This is not the film for you. If you’re looking for a memorable drama on a war backdrop, well your film is this. Take it.