BY RIZAL RAOUL REYES
Thanks to creative and innovative directors like Oliver Stone, Stanley Kubrick and Terrence Malick, we have been given an excellent opportunity to see the impact of war people and society. Unlike before, people have been treated to a glamorized and romanticized version of war which our parents and grandparents can relate to. Just recall the John Wayne-starred movies of the bygone era.
Martin Zandvliet is a welcome addition to this breed of directors who present this sensitive subject through his third film “Land of Mine”. The film tackles a chapter in World War II which has gotten miniscule attention from writers and historians as well compared to the events in France, Italy, and Africa.
“Land of Mine” dramatizes the exploits and experiences of German boys during the aftermath of World War II who were forced to remove still-live land mines that Nazis left behind at war’s end.
The film served as the kickoff feature in the Toronto Film Festival’s new juried Platform section in 2015.
The opening of the film shows the hatred towards the Nazis. After the Germans were vanquished by the Allies in May 1945, Danish Army Sgt. Rassmussen (Roland Moller) pours his contained rage on two hapless Nazi soldiers retreating homeward on foot. The consolation is their paths will never cross again. However, it was quite different from the 14 lads who will assign under his command for the next three months. The unenviable task of these boys is to disarm and remove some 45,000 landmines the Nazis planted on a local beach Denmark, among more than 1.5 million scattered along Denmark’s western coast in anticipation of Allied invasion.
Despite being given a very dangerous task, the German boys still possessed high hopes they will return to their country once they finished the job. From day one, Rasmussen did not hold his feelings towards the enemy combatants and didn’t care about their condition. In short, he gave them hell so to speak. He let them experience immediate starvation and were listed at the bottom of the priority list for scarce supplies.
Roland Møller in Land of Mine
Exacerbating their situation, the boys also got a cold treatment from a village woman (Laura Bro) who manages a beachside farm they’re camped in, though her little daughter (Zoe Zandvliet) is too young to comprehend why these young strangers should be avoided.
The boys were not really suitable for soldiering as shown by their physique and the emotion. They were just recruited by the Nazis to bolster the decimated ranks of the Axis forces. Their natural leader Sebastian (Louis Hofmann) and cynical malcontent Helmut (Joel Basman) seems to be approaching their 20s.
Furthermore, inseparable twins Ernst and Werner (Emil and Oskar Belton), looked quite young for high school. As film, Rasmussen realized that these lads are not the typical Nazi monsters like the SS and the Gestapo. He felt empathy for these frightened and homesick youths. However, Rasmussen’s sneering superior, Captain. Ebbe (Mikkel Boe Folsgaard), didn’t feel the same and believes all Nazis are murderous individuals.
As the film progresses, Rasmussen shows sympathy towards the boys and even joined them in a friendly football match on the beach. However, Rasmussen’s mood changed when his dog accidentally stepped on a mine while walking on the beach. He again gave them degrading punishment specially the boys’ leader.
Although the film is dealing with still-live mines, it has shown only one gory scene to deliver the message of the film. The rest of the violent scenes were not highlighted.
The film also has a human rights element wherein the rights of prisoners of war were violated.
Finally, the beauty of “Land of Mine” is that Zandvliet managed effectively show that it is apolitical and showing both sides are sick and fed up of the war. Furthermore, the film underscores that the German boys are sacrificial lambs to the 1,000-year Reich dream of the diabolical Fuehrer. Meanwhile, the Danes and Allied military forces are also struggling to get back any sense of empathy after five years’ occupation. Randmussen started to move by setting the remaining four boys free to go back to Germany after they were recalled by the Danes to disarm the mines.
January 2017 Health and Lifestyle