Land of Mine

What a pity that all wars can’t end with giving immunity to the soldiers fighting for a defeated enemy as we did with Confederate soldiers after the Civil War.

Land of MineLand of Mine was one of the five foreign films nominated for an Oscar this past year, and that was justifiable recognition for Director Martin Pieter Zandvliet. A Dutch film with English subtitles, it portrays the hideous cost of war for both the victors and the defeated.

In this case, soon after World War II ended a group of young German soldiers were assigned to a Danish beach to crawl on their hands and knees to remove tens of thousands of mines laid under the sand. Given that Germany had occupied Denmark for nearly five years before surrendering, the Danish people held the Germans in complete contempt.

That was particularly true of Sergeant Carl Rasmussen and his supervisor Lieutenant Ebb Jensen, the Danish soldiers assigned to oversee the young Germans digging for mines. Mikkel Boe Folsgaard is particularly menacing as Lieutenant Jensen, a man who clearly felt that since the Germans never showed any mercy when controlling Denmark, why show any such feelings for the defeated rabble.

However, Roland Moller dominates this movie as Sergeant Rasmussen, a guy who initially didn’t care if the young German boys lived or died. While he didn’t plan it, things changed when he gradually forms an attachment with them. Fourteen of these German lads had to crawl daily on their hands and knees to find and defuse mines under his guidance, and you know it would be a miracle for any of them to survive.

Given the subject matter, this is not an easy movie to watch. All of the young Germans appear to be teenagers, and it was easy to sympathize with their plight while ignoring their actions before Germany surrendered. The treatment of the German prisoners by the Dutch resembles our country’s torturing large numbers of prisoners after our misguided invasion of Iraq, and it would be foolish to criticize the Dutch in this film when we still keep Guantanamo Bay Prison open to this very day.

In Land of Mine, Sergeant Rasmussen had to wrestle with his profound anger towards the Germans and his conflicting identification with the struggling young boys trying to survive so that they could return home to their families. Does he let them all die on the beach, or does he honor his word to allow the survivors to return to Germany? The answer to that question makes this film worth seeing.