Land of Mine

Land of Mine

2017, R, 100 min. Directed by Martin Zandvilet. Starring Roland Møller, Louis Hofmann, Joel Basman, Mikkel Boe Følsgaard, Emil Belton, Oskar Belton.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., March 17, 2017

In May of 1945, the sandy beaches along the western coast of Denmark were crawling with defeated Nazi troops. Most of them were just forcibly conscripted young boys, as Germany’s more battle-hardened soldiers were long depleted. In this Oscar-nominated Danish production, these young Germans, 12 of them, have been tasked by the Allies with removing 45,000 of the estimated 2 million land mines that their Nazi occupiers buried in the sand in preparation for an invasion that never came. Overseen by bearish Danish Sergeant Rasmussen (Møller), who is in turn overseen by a British colonel, the soldiers are given a basic rundown on what types of mines they’re likely to encounter and how to defuse and discard them. But to Rasmussen and the Danes, a disarmed land mine is of more worth than a live Nazi. And that’s where director Martin Zandvilet gets you: As much as we revile Hitler’s sick dream and in turn the soldiers that carried it out, these flesh-and-blood minesweepers are just kids, scared, starving, and dying to go home, literally. As the sergeant tells them early on, “If you clear eight mines an hour, you can return to your homes in six months.” As the captives literally crawl along the beach, gently poking small metal rods into the sand in hopes of detecting a land mine without actually tripping it, the masterful Land of Mine slowly, almost without notice, transforms into one of the most viscerally intense anti-war films since Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun.

Much of the suspense here hinges on the treacherous work at hand, but the actors playing the Germans are across the board excellent, particularly twins Ernst and Werner (Emil and Oskar Belton), who fantasize about the bricklaying business they’re going to start once they get back to Germany. (An excellent plan, considering the Allied bombing of the Fatherland.)

Comparisons to The Hurt Locker are unavoidable given the subject matter, but Land of Mine is the better film, and quite possibly an instant classic. Zandvilet, who also wrote the script, inserts small moments of humanity throughout what is easily the most nerve-racking, intense film of the year thus far. Audiences will find themselves startlingly conflicted as the “little boys,” as Sgt. Rasmussen refers to his prisoners, are inevitably blown to bits or horribly maimed as they progress. That’s called empathy. If there’s one thing the movies have taught pop culture, it’s that Nazis are always the bad guys. Here, they’re just children, inching ever closer to the end.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Roland Møller Films
Brutal historical epic gives gritty, accessible life to a Czech icon

Matthew Monagle, Sept. 9, 2022

Riders of Justice
Mads Mikkelsen is out for revenge in this sweet, strange Danish tragicomedy

Richard Whittaker, May 21, 2021

More by Marc Savlov
Remembering James “Prince” Hughes, Atomic City Owner and Austin Punk Luminary
Remembering James “Prince” Hughes, Atomic City Owner and Austin Punk Luminary
The Prince is dead, long live the Prince

Aug. 7, 2022

Green Ghost and the Masters of the Stone
Texas-made luchadores-meets-wire fu playful adventure

April 29, 2022


Land of Mine, Martin Zandvilet, Roland Møller, Louis Hofmann, Joel Basman, Mikkel Boe Følsgaard, Emil Belton, Oskar Belton

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle