On Monday, May 7, Arena Theater Film Club presents Land of Mine, a Danish film from 2015. Not for the casual filmgoer, Land of Mine is based on extraordinary true events. Directed (and written) by Martin Zandvliet, this multi award-winning historical drama tells a gripping story of redemption and forgiveness, as it follows a group of captured soldiers in Denmark in the immediate aftermath of WW II. As we know (or should know) no war ends with weapons dropped, hands shaken, and a simple wave ‘goodbye’.
The scene is Denmark 1945. The defeated German occupiers have retreated but have left a cruel parting gift—the beaches of the west coast of Denmark are studded with more than a million landmines. The British and Danish come up with a plan: use German prisoners of war, many of them teenage boys, to clear the beaches. This oppressively tense drama follows one squad of callow, terrified soldiers who have barely grown out of childhood and into their uniforms, and the Danish officer who grudgingly becomes their protector.
Ignoring the Geneva Convention which forbids this (and many other types of cruel treatment of prisoners), there (reportedly) is evidence that British and Danish commands deliberately changed the wording of the text from "prisoners of war" to "voluntarily surrendered enemy personnel" in order to sidestep the rules of the convention. To this day, the events surrounding the de-mining of the Danish beaches are considered taboo in not only modern Danish history, but also European post-war history. The five-month de-mining process claimed more human lives than the entire length of German occupation in Denmark. As with many stories from war (not just WWII), we’re faced with George Santayana’s reminder, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”.
Land of Mine screens Monday, May 7 at 7:00pm. It's rated 'R' for violence, some grisly images, and language It has a runtime 101 minutes.