A Danish film called LAND OF MINE earned an Oscar nomination this year for Best Foreign Film. It's a very good movie, but I don't urge you to see it. The only reason I'm not pushing people to see LAND OF MINE is that it's painful to watch. The film is the powerful story of a group of very young German soldiers in 1945 who are forced to clean up land mines buried by other Germans on the western beaches of Denmark during World War II. As you might imagine, some of the boys are blown up and they all suffer the effects of starvation. When the movie was over, I felt drained.
Lt. Ebbe Jensen: Someone must have thought the Allied invasion would take place here. What a disgrace for those who came up with the idea. And what a shame for you.
Sergeant Rasmussen: Can you all see the black flag down there?
Boys: Yes, Sergeant.
Sergerant: Between the black flag and the trail, 45,000 land mines are buried. You will defuse all of them. When you're finished, you're free to go home.
Roland Moller is Rassmussen, the middle aged drill sergeant from hell, a man who abuses his group of young boys who are soldiers only because Germany ran out of older young men.
Boy: I'm hungry. I haven't eaten in days.
Sergeant: Do you think I feel sorry for you?
The job is impossibly dangerous. The dread of a fatal explosion is a curse on all of them as they search for the land mines.
Boy: I have one.
Another boy: I have one!
Still another: Me, too!
The tension rarely lets up. The group becomes sick and desperate. One boy is clever enough to steal a hunk of bread from a little girl.
The saving grace in all of this is that the Sergeant Rasmussen gradually comes to sympathize with their plight.
Sergeant: They're little boys. Little boys who cry out for their mom.
Lt. Jensen: If you're old enough to go to war, you're old enough to clean up your mess.
But the Sergeant, gruff, German-hater that he is, brings them a little food, and also some encouragement.
Sergeant: Repeat after me. "It's almost over."
Boy: It's almost over.
Sergeant: I'll make it home.
Boy: I'll make it home.
But is he only offering false hope? I won't give away what happens but only warn you: this fine film will sometimes make you cringe.