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What’s there to like?

I’ve been hoping to get to Land of Mine for a while now. It was nominated for the best foreign film academy award this year. I remember seeing previews for it at some point. (Must have been when I was still in New York?) But I’ve liked most of the several Danish movies I’ve seen, even though I’ve never seen any of the work of director Martin Zvandliet. So, put all that together, and I was happy to be able to see this one.

Land of Mine is about a moment at the end of World War II when German prisoners were sent to Denmark to clear the landmines the German army had placed on the beaches of Denmark. Understandably, the first bit of the movie shows us just how much the Danish people and army hate the German soldiers. Just as the audience is likely primed to do. Nazis are, basically, the one group it’s totally okay to hate these days. And these soldiers weren’t Nazis per se, but being German soldiers in WWII is close enough that you can understand the rage–especially from the just-liberated Danish people, who I’m sure had more reason to hate them than most.

So when the sergeant who’s in charge of the POW unit that’s going to clear a certain beach gets his German prisoners to oversee, the thing is, we discover they’re incredibly young and green. Not the battle hardened warriors you might have expected. And they’re given this terribly dangerous job, which basically confirms that no one cares if they live or die. Maybe the authorities even kinda hope they do die. And through all that, this movie manages to make these boys–these German soldiers–sympathatic. And you start to resent all the people, from Danish citizens, to Danish military, to British soldiers who are passing through and abuse them. There’s obviously some understandable amount of retribution that’s going to happen. But even if you grant the logic of having the prisoners clear these mines, people descend much further into their dehumanization of the Germans than can possibly be warranted.

That’s the really interesting perspective the movie takes.

In terms of the story, there are some moving plot beats that help take us on an emotional journey. The acting is really pretty solid. Roland Moller is compelling as the Danish sergeant, and there are about three of the German soldiers I felt really drawn towards.

What’s not to like?

I mean, not much, honestly. I can see why Land Of Mine got its Oscars nod. All I can really put here is that it’s got that foreign, artsy-fartsy vibe. My foreign flick watching has gone down lately, but it sure is striking how different they can feel. Extremely subtle, not a lot of tonal dynamics, cultural references I’m never 100% sure I completely get. In other words, maybe not for everyone, even if it sure is for me.

The Verdict

A movie about the inhumanity that comes with hate. Remarkable for extracting some sympathy for German soldiers in World War II.

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[crossposted at loganbeaux.com]

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