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Film / Land of Mine

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Land of Mine (Under Sandet, "Under the Sand") is a 2015 film from Denmark directed by Martin Sandvliet.

It is set in Denmark in May, 1945, in the immediate aftermath of the German surrender and the end of World War II in Europe. Untold thousands of German soldiers who were occupying Denmark (Germany held Denmark until the end) have surrendered as prisoners of war. Denmark is now free, but the nation has a serious problem. The Germans, anticipating the possibility that the Allies might land on the west coast of Denmark, have buried over two million mines along Denmark's entire North Sea coastline.

Sgt. Carl Rasmussen fought with the British During the War and is back with the Danish army in peace. He has been assigned a squad of fourteen German soldiers, all teenaged boys thanks to Germany's Lowered Recruiting Standards in the latter phase of the war and the fact that Denmark wasn't a combat zone anyway. The boys, under Rasmussen's supervision, have been assigned with demining a section of beach that is estimated to contain some 45,000 mines. It is extremely hazardous work, and the boys are given only a cursory training before they are on the beach removing mines.

Like almost everyone else in occupied Europe, Carl hates the Germans with a passion, and at first has no sympathy for the teenagers in his charge. But as he gets to know them, Sgt. Rasmussen and the boys in his squad form a bond.


  • All Germans Are Nazis: The Danes believed so and Carl at first thought so too until he was assigned to supervise a group of German Child Soldiers.
  • Angsty Surviving Twin: Despite seeing his twin brother Werner blown up by a land mine, Ernst simply cannot process what happened, and still thinks they need to look for Werner. Eventually Ernst kills himself.
  • Child Soldier: The German teenagers under Carl's command were this due to their age.
  • Darkest Hour: Carl's dog's death due to the lax effort of the German POWs as a result of him initially Took a Level in Kindness reverts his attitude back to where he started - German hatred, to a point one of them wants to give up trying to get on his good graces after feeling that window's closed forever and escape.
  • Death Equals Redemption: Ernst is Driven to Suicide not only to join his brother Werner Together in Death, but for his compatriots to atone for their mistake in their minesweeping that claimed the life of Carl's dog.
  • Demolitions Expert: Subverted in that the Germans aren't demolition experts, they are ordinary soldiers of the Heer being pressed into service clearing land mines. They become experts after weeks of experience—until a careless error kills half the platoon.
  • Double-Meaning Title: Triple meaning title. There's "land of mine" as in the simple meaning of "my land", there's an allusion to the west coast of Denmark being a land of mines, and it's a lyric from the Danish national anthem ("I dedicate undying/Faith to this land of mine.")
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Carl initially acted as this towards the enemy prisoners due to his hatred of the Nazis.
  • Driven to Suicide: Ernst, unable to carry on after his brother Werner is blown up, deliberately walks out into the minefield and kills himself.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The opening scene shows Carl seething with rage as he watches a German POW column pass. When he sees a German soldier carrying a Danish flag he runs over, beats the man, and rips the flag out of his hands. His hatred for Germans is established.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Both Carl and the neighboring single mother become this with the German POWs.
  • Heel Realization: Carl has this after poor Wilhelm is blown up and killed by a land mine. Giving Wilhelm a shot of morphine is the first time he shows any compassion for the boys. After that he starts treating them better and giving them sufficient rations. After his dog's death due to the German prisoners' mistakes reverted him back to his German-hating self, Carl has another when Ernst is Driven to Suicide to be Together in Death with his brother Werner, while also demonstrating Death Equals Redemption as a way for the boys to make amends for causing Carl's dog's death. Overall, Carl realizes that he and his fellow Danes were going too far in punishing their former oppressors and are sinking to their level by crossing the Moral Event Horizoninvoked by committing this mass war crime.
  • I Gave My Word: At the end of the movie Capt. Jensen tells Carl that, despite what they told the Germans, they will not be going home after clearing the beach. Rather, they will be sent to a different beach. An outraged Carl says that he promised the boys that they could go go home, but Capt. Jensen, who doesn't give a rat's ass if all the Germans are killed, says that an order's an order. So on his own initiative Carl drives the four remaining boys to within a half-kilometer of the German border, and tells them to run for it.
  • I Want My Mommy!: The tragic version, as Wilhelm, badly mangled but still conscious after he's blown up by a mine, screams for his mother.
  • Inspector Javert: The Allied forces committing war crimes are this to the helpless and defenseless German POWs.
  • Jitter Cam: Seen when a frantic Ernst runs over to his brother Werner, who has been blown to pieces by a mine.
  • Land Mine Goes "Click!": Land Mine Goes Click: The Movie. Fourteen terrified German teenagers are tasked with slowly, laboriously defusing thousands of mines buried on a beach. Werner is killed when he defuses a mine, only to fail to realize that there was a second mine under the first one.
  • Lecture as Exposition: Captain Jensen gives his Germans a lecture about what they have to do, which explains to them and the audience the situation, complete with a map showing the west coast of Denmark covered in mines.
  • Moment of Silence: When Ernst suicidally walks into the mine field, the protests from Sebastian and the others fade to silence as the background music grows louder. When he triggers a mine and it explodes, the only sound is the music, which then ends, the last note fading to silence. After a lull, the music starts up again, quiet and slow. Several seconds pass before any other sound is heard — Sebastian's quiet, ragged breathing as he stares at the scene.
  • Mood Whiplash: Near the end of the film, the boys are almost done clearing the beach. As they toss disarmed mines onto a wagon they chat excitedly about all the stuff they're going to do when they get back to Germany. Unfortunately one of the land mines apparently wasn't properly defused, so it explodes, thus detonating all the mines on the cart. Seven men, half the squad, are instantly killed.
  • Morality Pet: Carl's dog is literal one and his death due to a mistake on the German boys' behalf is what initially reverted him back to his Revenge Before Reason self after trying to Took a Level in Kindness.
  • The Neidermeyer: The war crime-committing Danish military acts as this towards their German POWs.
  • No Body Left Behind: After Ernst blows up, nothing visible remains of him.
  • Noble Bigot: Carl and a single mother neighboring him and his group become this after they Took a Level in Kindness.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: The German POWs, especially the group of boys under Carl's command, are this despite being the enemy who were Just Following Orders, but other then that are shown to be decent sort who doesn't deserved to be excessively tortured.
  • Revenge Before Reason: The Danes' mindset towards the defeated Germans.
  • Run for the Border: Unwilling to send his squad off to clear another beach, a virtual death sentence since only 28% of them survived clearing the first beach, Carl drives his four surviving men to within 500 meters of the German border and tells them to run for it. They do, and the film ends.
  • That's an Order!: Words to this effect from Capt. Jensen, after Carl begs him to reconsider sending the four surviving boys to a second beach.
  • Those Who Fight Monsters: The Danes are so consumed with vengeance against their former oppressors that it never dawns on them they they were stooping to their level by committing war crimes against the Geneva Convention.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Carl undergoes this when getting over his vengeful hatred. Also, the single mother neighboring his group after Ernst save her daughter's life.
  • Vader Breath: A rare example from a protagonist. The opening credits play over a sound of some intense, stressed-out breathing on the soundtrack. It turns out to be Carl, sitting in his jeep, seething as he watches a stream of German prisoners pass.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: As the closing titles note, some 2000 German prisoners were in fact employed (by the British, not the Danes) in clearing mines from Denmark's North Sea coast, and half of them died.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Wilhelm vomits onscreen from sheer terror after uncovering his first mine on the beach.