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SYNOPSIS: In immediate postwar Denmark, a group of young German POWs are made the enemy of a nation, forced to dig up many of the two million land-mines with their bare hands. (Based on a true story.)

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It's true. Some 2,000 German POWs in Denmark were consigned to land mine clearing duties on the western beaches of the country where the occupying Germans had expected an Allied invasion and laid a welcome mat consisting of over 1 million mines. Nearly half the Germans died or were maimed. This film tells the story of a handful of very young captured German soldiers, mostly teens, who are put under the supervision of Sgt Carl Rasmussen (Roland M┐ller) and after a perfunctory bout of training, taken to a beach deserted except for barbed wire and hidden land mines. The young faces elicit our sympathy, as we struggle to resists feeling sorry for German soldiers - connected as they are to Nazi ambitions... that's one of the challenges both for audiences and the filmmakers.

Crawling on the sand and defusing mines with their bare hands - not always successfully - these young German soldiers take us with them into the peculiar horror of post-war trauma. Sgt Rasmussen is none too kind, either. In the opening scenes, he bashes German POWs on a whim of hatred, as they are marched off under guard. Moller is given a powerful and demanding role with a character who variously horrifies us and gains our empathy. The film deftly takes us all the way through his emotional and mental journey in what is a wrenching portrait.

Mikkel Boe Folsgaard is also impressive in a smaller but vital role as Lt Ebbe, an officer even more antipathetic than Rasmussen - to the point that we recognize the filmmakers' disapproval of this unpleasant chapter in Danish post-war history, stained with the illegal orders that made prisoners perform forced labour, a no-no under the Geneva Convention.

The young German soldiers are presented more or less sympathetically, with the possible exception of Helmut Morbach, played with gusto by Joel Basman. (There is the usual 'fog of war' surrounding the historical representations of these events, which are worth exploring by readers keen to get a deeper insight.)

It is a tribute to the achievement of the filmmakers that audiences recognize the film's value, despite its several harsh and confronting moments, as indicated by quite a few audience and festival awards, and some acting awards, notably Best Actor and Supporting Actor for Louis Hoffman as young German soldier Sebastian Schumann and M┐ller as the Sergeant plus a clutch of awards and nominations at the Danish Academy's 2016 Robert Festival.

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(Denmark/Germany, 2015)

Under sandet

CAST: Roland Moller, Mikkel Boe Folsgaard, Laura Bro, Louis Hofmann, Joel Basman, Osckar Bokelmann, Emil Belton, Leon Seidel, Karl Alexander Seidel, Maximilian Beck, August Carter, Tim Bčlow, Alexander Rasch

PRODUCER: Malte Grunert, Mikale Chr. Rieks

DIRECTOR: Martin Zandvliet

SCRIPT: Martin Zandvliet


EDITOR: Peter Sandholt, Molly Marlene Stensgaard

MUSIC: Sune Martin


RUNNING TIME: 101 minutes



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