I dig history. I dig movies. I dig movies about history. I TOTALLY dig Land of Mine. Land of Mine was nominated for Best Foreign Film at the 2017 Oscars, which is how I found out about it. Here, here USC the trailer:
Land of Mine is a completely different take on World War II. Like, upends everything we know and love about the genre. Totally. First, a question, have you ever watched a World War II film told with Nazis as the protagonist? No. Of course not. Wait, was Das Boot? Yeah, but that movie was no good! hahahah. Ok, so I should know when to stop when I’m ahead. But Land of Mine is totally told from the perspective of young teenage German soldiers after the war. How can that even be a thing? But it totally is.
Apparently, at the end of the war, there were more than 2,000 prisoners of war that were forced to remove a million and a half land mines from the west coast of Denmark. I don’t know about you, but that’s just a lot of explosives. Someone apparently thought the invasion was coming Denmark’s direction, that’s for sure. But they guessed wrong. And now Denmark was stuck with all kinds of pyrotechnics inside their beaches. So cut back to this movie, that centers on a hard ass Sergeant who commands a troop of these German POWs that were just kids. Some as young as 13. THIRTEEN! Who were ordered to use their – think about this – bare hands, to search for, dig up, and diffuse these millions of mines.
Doing a little math – each of these 2,000 kids – pulled up 750 mines. Think about it. Doing one would be maddening. 750?! The team would sweep the beach in a single unit in order to create a safe zone behind them. And by the end of the effort, half. No. I’m not moving past this quickly. HALF! of all these German teens would be dead. Now, in my little mind, I would create a method to spray the beach with rocks in a systematic way in order to just detonate them en masse. But no, these Danes had cheap labor. So let’s put them to use.
Are you sensing why this would be a fantastic story? Where does common sense stop? And revenge begin? Oh, and by the way, our lovely Sergeant figured, why feed these guys? So they’d go days without food. Defusing landmines while starving? Hahahah. Not safe.
So Zandvliet, the author of Land of Mine, while searching for ways in which Denmark broke the Geneva convention discovered all these really young German boys in the cemeteries and decided to write about their story. It is a well researched story, very fact based, but fictional all the same. And yet, you couldn’t make up many of the stories that happened during this time. There were boys who blew off arms, and, legs. But it is expressly forbidden in the Geneva Convention to use prisoners of war for dangerous work. Article 32 expressly states: “It is forbidden to use prisoners of war at unhealthful or dangerous work.”
And so this movie is so much a mess of emotions and revenge. It’s a real life thought experiment. “WELL!?? They put them there in the first place dang it!” And yet, what are we really doing by having these hostages do this work?
Want to go even one step further? The movie doesn’t depict this, but the local Danes would come to the beaches and have picnics and watch as the Germans were forced to march through the mine fields. Oh, and did I mention that the military hostages also included women? Right. World War II was a hell on earth. It brought about the worst of man to be unleashed on the most vulnerable of the planet. And as a result, we weren’t to kind in return.
Back to the movie – I watched it last night. And I watch so many movies, that I just camp out in bed with my iPad aglow and my wife sleeping beside me. Well… there was one seen. Oh Holy Night. This one scene? I could tell something was going to go poorly. But the exact what and the exact when caught me completely off guard. I basically bounced I jumped so hard. My wife? WHAT WHAT HAPPENED WHAT?!?!? hahahah. Nothing sweetie. I sneezed. It was nothing. Hahah.
I recently did a review of the movie Life, which I highly recommend. But what I loved about it was the old school Alien feel of the film. The scary, twitchy, what’s going to happen next sort of feel throughout. Well, I’m sorry, but Land of Mine? Out did Life for twitch factor by a factorial. Literally. Even when nothing bad was happening, I was twitching hardcore. Oh boy oh boy here comes the big one! It’s like in that opening scene of Hurt Locker when he pulls on the cables and sees 9 bombs attached simultaneously. Initiate Pucker Factor Level 11!
Such a fantastically done film. I should probably reach out to Zandvliet and see if he’d be open to talking about the film. It was a truly exceptional movie. Please go and find a copy of this movie and watch it. It is a truly remarkable film. And the ending? Oh my gosh. Such fantastic writing and story telling. Totally a triumph.