Land of Mine: A Different Kind of War Film
By Adam Cook
The most intense war-time drama since Kathryn Bigelow’s riveting Oscar-winner, The Hurt Locker, Land of Mine is a harrowing look at man’s inhumanity to man during a relatively forgotten period in Denmark after the end of WWII. Denmark’s border was filled with thousands of landmines in preparation for a battle that never happened. Now a terrible threat, the Danish army enlists German POWs to track down all of the mines and defuse them—the very definition of a suicide mission.
The film opens with a violent scene in which a Danish sergeant, Carl Rasmussen, beats a German POW, seemingly just to vent his pent up rage from the war. This introduces a way of framing this whole story, taking a critical look at how the Danish treated the Germans as less than human. From their perspective, a taste of their own medicine probably seemed appropriate. Land of Mine deserves a lot of credit for humanizing figures often pegged as villains, and looking deeper at how the war machine perpetuates degradation and cruelty—in other words, a complete breakdown of morality—and doesn’t look to blame anyone in particular. The film complicates and questions notions of nationalism as dangerous.
Scenes of defusing mines (spoiler: it doesn’t always go well) are unbearably suspenseful, and the quiet moments in between where we get to know the characters are moving and beautifully acted. By looking at postwar period, Land of Mine also sidesteps the typical war is hell narrative and bloody depictions of battle. The result is something incredibly tense and deeply human. Rasmussen’s journey through the film is one of inner turmoil. Driven to anger and desperation by the war, he is hell bent on revenge. But as the film humanizes the young German soldiers, so to does his perspective shift, leading to a story that ultimately touches on universal themes of trauma and forgiveness.
Land of Mine plays June 2 – 8 at the Vancity Theatre.