Land of Mine (4 stars)

Land of Mine

Intelligent, Oscar-nominated war drama from Danish director Martin Zandvliet

It has taken almost two years for Land of Mine (Under Sandet) to secure a British release but it has been worth the wait. Martin Zandvliet's intelligent, Oscar-nominated drama focuses on a less familiar aspect of World War II, emphasising the way in which conflict dehumanises both victor and vanquished. Anyone who felt Dunkirk was undermined by its narrow patriotic focus might well take solace in a film with a wider perspective.

Land of Mine is set in 1945 as European nations struggle to emerge from the rubble of war. In Denmark, veteran sergeant Carl Rasmussen (Roland Møller) is assigned to defuse and remove 45,000 landmines planted along the local coastline. A group of prisoners of war, including Sebastian (Louis Hofmann) and twins Ernst and Werner (Emil and Oskar Belton), will be used to clear the mines. They are told that when the task is complete they will be allowed to return to Germany.

It seems a fitting punishment for a hated enemy but the soldiers are little more than teenagers called up as the last line of attack in the dying months of Hitler's rule. There is an inevitability in the way the tough, burly Rasmussen gradually sets aside his prejudices to see his charges as vulnerable youngsters who don't deserve their fate. Others are less forgiving and unable to move beyond hatred to rediscover a sense of compassion for a fellow human being.

Zandvliet's spare, accessible storytelling refuses to play the situation for melodrama and he is discreet in depicting the violent end that awaits some of the young Germans. His understated approach results in a thoughtful, poignant drama that is comfortably carried on the shoulders of an ebullient, heartfelt performance from Møller that won him the Danish equivalent of the BAFTA Best Actor prize.

Selected release from Fri 4 Aug.

Land of Mine

  • 4 stars
  • 2015
  • Denmark / Germany
  • 1h 40min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Martin Zandvliet
  • Cast: Roland Møller, Louis Hofmann, Joel Basman
  • UK release: 4 August 2017

At the end of WW2, veteran Danish army sergeant Carl Rasmussen (Møller) is placed in charge of a group of teenage German POWs who he puts to work defusing and removing 45,000 landmines. Intelligent, poignant, Oscar-nominated drama about the dehumanising effect of war, carried by an ebullient, heartfelt performance from…