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Reviews - Land of Mine

Land of Mine

Reviewed By Vaughan Ames

Land of Mine
Land of Mine
The audience on Sunday night were treated to a very powerful movie about the causes of hatred and reconciliation. We were taken back to the end of WWII, to the beaches of Denmark where the Germans had planted around two million land mines to stop the expected Allied invasion there. We were instantly made to feel part of the action as we watched German prisoners being marched out of the country, the Danes screaming abuse at them – "this land is mine; get out of it!" – and there was the deliberate dichotomy of the title in our face. We could feel the hatred of the Germans, we could even sympathise; they had been occupied for several years. What would we have felt?

So what could the Danes do to make their beaches safe again? Someone had to dig up the mines, why not use German prisoners of war - especially as they were so hated? The rest of the film followed a small group of these PoWs, under the charge of a Danish Sergeant, as they were forced to do exactly that to a small beach with 45,000 mines to clear. The problem was the Germans were all teenagers, forced to fight by the Nazis in the last days of the war.

I won't be giving away any secrets if I tell you that some of these youths were going to die: all they had were long sticks to push into the sand to detect a mine. The Sergeant didn't care if they were killed or not; it was their fault the mines were there. The local farmer was pleased when the Germans got sick from food they had stolen from her pigs; "I got some Germans after all".

But - and it is a big BUT – gradually, and inevitably, as they get to know each other,first the sergeant, then the farmer find reasons to feel sympathy, even friendship,with the young Germans: humans, thankfully, do tend to grow to like their communities, whatever politicians try to tell us. The sergeant starts to steal food for his troop, sets up a football match on the beach; the farmer realises they are human when they risk their own lives to rescue her small daughter from the minefield. The Danish officers refuse to recognize the dilemma, forcing the only remaining four PoWs to move to a different beach when they have cleared this one; they are saved at the end of the film when the sergeant takes it on himself to drive them to the border and let them go home. The film finishes by telling us that of the 2000 PoWs used to clear the beaches in 1945, more than half were killed... The audience in Keswick were nearly all moved by this film; you could feel the joint deep breathe we took as we left the Alhambra.

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Keswick Film Club won the Best New Film Society at the British Federation Of Film Societies awards in 2000.

Since then, the club has won Film Society Of The Year and awards for Best Programme four times and Best Website twice.

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