By Lisa Nault
The academy recently announced the latest Oscar nominations for the 89th Academy Awards ceremony, and there is one feature many may not have seen yet.
Nominated for Best Foreign Film, “Land of Mine” is a cinematic masterpiece that was selected as a feature film in the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. It is based on real events that occurred in Denmark during 1945.
Set in post World War II, this film naturally builds tension as the subject of the feature is the deactivation of bombs. During the war, Germany planted millions of mines on Denmark beaches, so when the fighting ceased the mines remained. To deal with the mine problem, Danish officials had groups of German POWs comb the beaches to find and deactivate every single mine. Most of the POWs were young men.
From beginning to end, the audience remained at the edge of their seats, unsure of what was going to happen next. The acting in this film is incredible, especially when one considers that several of the main actors had never held any major role before. These characters are complex.
They are broken down physically and mentally by the constant threat of danger. The only support they can receive is from a man who
despises what they represent. The only motivation they have is the hope that if they live long enough to finish the job they can go home. A hope that may not even be real. These are not easy emotions to capture in a sincere and realistic manner.
For instance, the Danish sergeant who watches over the boys hates Germans for obvious reasons: they were his enemy in the war and killed people he knew and cared about. However, he is also sympathetic to the young boys as they suffer mental breakdowns or when he watches them scream for their mothers after a mine detonates.
These performances deserve Oscars for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor. If “Land of Mine” was not a foreign film it would have been nominated for these categories in a heartbeat.
The film was meant to cause viewers unrest, not only because it is difficult to watch people blow up but it is on a topic that is seldom discussed. Usually people see war as two sides opposing each other: the good guys and the bad guys, victors and losers. However, it is not that clear cut because everyone sees their side as the good guys and history is written by the winners.
Nobody previously had wanted to talk about the ill treatment of the POWs after World War II on those Denmark beaches even though it broke Geneva Convention rules. International law, article 32, of the Geneva Convention states that “any unlawful act or omission by the Detaining Power causing death or seriously endangering the health of a prisoner of war in its custody is prohibited.” The message of the film is not choosing which side is better or worse but that an eye for an eye philosophy never works.
The cinematography of the film is beautiful. There are several extreme long shots that emphasize how the issues talked about in this feature are larger than just this group of POWs. The characters are isolated against the vast landscape of a seemingly endless beach. They appear alone as they travel down the beach, not knowing if the next mine will be their death.
The color palette of the film is neutral. The lack of saturated color creates a natural tone, which represents the two sides as also being neutral. The brightness of the light exposes the characters to the elements. Similarly, the characters’ fears and insecurities are exposed for all to witness.
The release date for “Land of Mine” in the United States is February 10. It will probably be in limited theaters but for anyone who has not seen the film yet, it is worth a trip.