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Land of Mine Review

By David Kempler

This Land is Mine Land

Danish director Martin Zandvliet has undertaken the task of telling a true story that happened in Denmark in the immediate aftermath of World War II. Seems straightforward enough. What makes it one of the most unusual films I have ever seen is that he leads us down a path where we are supposed to feel sorry for a group of young Nazis.

It left me with mixed feelings, though I'm fairly sure the director was pushing for something more. Perhaps I was supposed to be rooting wholeheartedly for the young Nazi soldiers stuck in Denmark after Germany surrendered. But that's a bit of a stretch (for me, at least).

During the war, the German troops occupying Denmark buried over two million mines in the sands of the Danish beaches to hinder an anticipated Allied invasion. When the war ended, the mines had to be removed. The Danish government decided that the task of ridding the beaches of mines should be handled by the 2,000 German soldiers already there. Why would Denmark risk the lives of its own citizens when the people who buried the mines could perform the extremely risky job?

The tone of "Land of Mine" is set quickly when we see a Danish soldier brutally kicking and beating captive German soldiers. It doesn't get any more pleasant after that. Soon, fourteen teenage German soldiers are brought together on a farm and trained to locate and disable mines on a stretch of beach.

Their assignment is to last at least three months. Sergeant Rasmussen (Roland Moller) of the Danish military is in charge of the group and his bitterness over the abuse of his country oozes from every pore of his body. What follows (spoiler alert!) is German teenagers dying and the bitterness of Rasmussen evolving into sympathy for the young Germans in his charge.

"Land of Mine" puts the viewer in the odd position of trying to empathize with the young German "victims" of the war. Certainly what befell them was immoral and illegal, but Zandvliet omits the backgrounds of the German teens. What atrocities had they themselves commited in pursuit of global domination? Were they members of the Hitler youth that routinely tortured and murdered Jews back home before they shipped off to war? And how did they behave in occupied Denmark before Germany surrendered?

It's a well-made film, but it feels manipulative and dishonest to me, because it absolutely ignores everything that came before it. If you can handle the premise of Nazi as victim, go see it.

What did you think?

Movie title Land of Mine
Release year 2015
MPAA Rating R
Our rating
Summary Danish film tells the true story of young German soldiers being used to defuse mines after World War II. Their treatment was illegal and perhaps immoral, but was it wrong?
View all articles by David Kempler
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