Hello, Kansas City! This movie review is a tad different than most. Land of Mine debuted at the 2015 Toronto Film Festival, and was just recently nominated for an Oscar. Our Mom Squad Ambassador, Darcy, had a chance to see it recently and gives us her thoughts below. Take a look..
Run Time: 1 hr 40 min
Director: Martin Zandvliet
Starring: Roland Moller, Louis Hoffman, Joel Basman
This Weekend at the Box Office: Land of Mine
I was asked to screen and review Land of Mine, a foreign film that debuted in 2015 at the Toronto Film Festival. In a sea of movies about war, this film sets itself apart by telling a tale about what happens after the war is over. After World War II, German POWs in Denmark, had to rid the country of the 2.2 million landmines the German army had buried along Denmark’s coast before they could return home. Nearly half of those soldiers were killed or terribly injured.
Of these POWs, many were boys. I don’t mean ‘boys’ like they haven’t had time to start a family, I mean ‘boys’ like they couldn’t have driven a car. I looked it up and in Germany, boys could enlist at the age of 16, but it is known that the Nazi’s occasionally took boys even younger than that. This film centers on a Dutch sergeant who is tasked with overseeing a group of German soldiers clear a beach of 45,000 mines. He is surprised at the group of soldiers he gets and he struggles between hating them for their nationality and sympathizing with them for their situation. The boys are told if they clear the mines, they can go home. They struggle though, with starvation, illness and trauma taking tolls.
This movie is violent, and heart-breaking and one of the most haunting films I have seen. Perhaps I have been subsisting on too many children’s movies- I kept waiting for a Disney-like finale where these terrible men get what’s coming and the boys make it out unscathed. However, this is not a movie for children and I had to be happy with the bits (and I mean BITS) of courage and hope that shine through.
As I sobbed my way through the film, I couldn’t help but feel a little sympathetic for all involved. The Dutch HATED the Germans; and following WWII, who could really blame them. Yet you also felt so badly for these children, being starved and traumatized as a country took out their hatred on some of those least deserving. Of course, if this was a movie about men who had been running concentration camps clearing a beach, there wouldn’t be much of an emotional journey to ask of the audience.
In the film, a woman lives nearby with her young daughter. She wants her daughter to stay away from the soldiers and she is cruel towards the boys. At first I was offended on the boys’ behalf. How could a mother treat someone else’s child like this? But then I put myself in her shoes. Living with a small girl while soldiers had been going through the country doing terrible things to women and children. What had happened to her husband? I suppose I would have been fearful and hateful too. The film doesn’t explore the history of its characters, so their motivation is open to interpretation and musings. I think this was quite brilliant as it washed away everything that had built up to this moment. You don’t know why the characters feel as they do (although you can guess), so you are left to judge and interpret only their actions in this moment. It casts things in a different light.
Land of Mine has spectacular acting, a beautiful setting and will be a movie that tugs at my heart whenever I think of it. I can’t tell you that you will enjoy it, but is a fantastic film and deserves to be seen. I applaud Martin Zandvliet, who wrote and directed this film, for telling one of the most difficult stories to come out of such a bleak moment in history with honesty, integrity and heart. While during the movie I kept thinking that it was about hate, but I think it really is about humanizing the enemy. It is about finding compassion and forgiveness when perhaps none is deserved. I definitely recommend this film; but know that you are in for a good cry.
From iFamily to Yours,