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Denmark’s Oscar Entry ‘Land of Mine’ From Nordisk Explores Untold WWII Story

Variety logo Variety 12/2/2016 Jorn Rossing Jensen
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Few films detail the immediate aftermath of conflict and occupation from World War II. Danish director-writer Martin Zandvliet’s ”Land of Mine” exposes the untold story of Denmark’s darkest hour. The Nordisk film, which has already picked up a slew of awards, has been named Denmark’s entry for the Oscar foreign-language film race. Sony Pictures Classics distributes in the U.S.

“Land of Mine” is set in the days following the surrender of Nazi Germany in May 1945, when German POWs held in Denmark were forced by the Allied forces to clear the millions of landmines laid by Hitler’s army. Most of these soldiers were teenagers, with minimal or no training in defusing explosives; more than half of them were killed or severely wounded in the process.

Zandvliet sheds light on this historical tragedy as the entry point to a story that involves love, hate, revenge, and reconciliation. Is it ever possible to show sympathy for those who represented the Nazi terror?

”I wanted to explore what happens to a person who loves his country as a patriot and feels a right to hate his enemy, but is put in charge of a task that conflicts with the values he thought he possessed and that his own nation represented,” Zandvliet says. ”Our sergeant protagonist is filled with the same hate that many Danes understandably had for the people who had occupied their country for five years. But he comes to doubt what he is fighting for.

”It was the Germans who laid the mines — who else should remove them? I would probably have forced them to clean up after themselves too, but I hope that I would have given them food, trained them properly so as to reduce the horrific casualties and countless fatalities and, in general, treated them with the dignity that all human beings deserve.

”The point for me is that an eye-for-an-eye mentality, so easily adopted in extreme situations like that portrayed in this movie, ultimately makes losers of us all,” says Zandvliet.

The filmmaker is working on ”The Outsider,” a U.S. drama set in post-WWII Japan and starring Jared Leto, Rory Cochrane and Tadanobu Asano, produced by Linson Entertainment and Waypoint Entertainment.

“Land of Mine” stars Roland Moller, Louis Hofmann, Joel Basman, and Mikkel Boe Folsgaard, and is the third Zandvliet film produced by Mikael Christian Rieks for Nordisk Film; Zandvliet wrote the screenplay.

Rieks, who is supervising “The Outsider” post-production at Nordisk Film in Denmark, says, it took 4½ years to get “Land of Mine” up and filming.

“Financing was complicated, the subject was simple but a hard sell: hate, teenagers, and landmines in an after-war context, set on a beach. Next time I will probably think twice, before I recommend a similar project with the same challenges to producer colleagues.”

It was an untold part of Danish history — a dark chapter, he says. “Still, the hatred the Danes felt against their former German occupiers is not different from what we see in the war zones of today. It is unfortunately relevant today. And it is necessary with the same moral awakening, if we want to continue having access to each other in this world,” Rieks says.

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