Interview: Roland Møller and Martin Zandvliet “Land of Mine”

Film Shot 1

In May of 1945 the war is over but four million German soldiers are still being held captive and are forced by the victors to be laborers.  As well as a group of teenagers who will be faced with a life threatening task of removing some 45,000 mines that the Nazis buried in the sand all along the coast of Denmark.  These ticking time bombs go off with the slightest touch. The young men do not have the knowledge, proper training or adequate equipment to do such a major task; one wrong step could be their last. Their only hope is the promise of freedom. The Danish Officer Carl Rasmussen (Roland Møller) has given them that promise. Officer Carl Rasmussen goes from being the boys’ war enemy to their only confidant.

Our reporter Rachel Kasuch met actor Roland Møller and Director Martin Zandvliet at the 28th International Film Festival in Tokyo (TIFF) for an interview. Roland Møller won for his performance  “Best Actor” at the Tokyo Film Festival…..

Many Germans don’t even know the story behind this film. How did you come up with the idea to  make such a movie?

Martin Zandvliet:  I wanted to tell something about one of the darkest chapters of Danish history. We present ourselves as the nation that helped the Jews to flee from the Nazis to Sweden. But there are many things about Denmark that hardly anyone knows. Most people think, we have a good and peaceful relationship with Germany, but it is much more complex. In my research I came across this part of the history and I thought it was important that it was told.  It shows the brutality of the war and its aftermath.

Were  your family members affected by the war?

Martin Zandvliet:  My grandfather fought on the Danish side and I have a stepbrother and a stepsister that are German, but that had no effect on my decision to do this film. I find it simply appalling that still today Germans are blamed for their ancestors’ mistakes. I’ve seen it over and over again and often thought to myself: Really? Three generations after the war? For this simple reason I decided to use young main actors. It is not the fault of these young men; it was their parents’ war.

Film Shot 3Was it a budget issue or a conscious decision to use these young amateur actors in this film, because maybe they could portray their innocents better than a trained actor? 

Martin Zandvliet:  It was a conscious decision, I did it on purpose.  I wanted to use unknown guys for the movie.   Louis, who plays the Sebastian, had had a few projects before but the others are all amateurs.

The film is very violent.  How did you deal with this?  After a day of filming were you able to leave this behind or did you take it home with you?

Martin Zandvliet: (laughs) I am brutal.  I wanted to portray it as it was and it was just brutal. When people see the film I want them to feel this. It was hard, but you must be able to shoot a scene and then afterward drink coffee and laugh. At the end of the day it’s still a job that we all are doing.

Roland Møller:  Some days are better than others. Throughout the filming of the movie we all lived in the same area.  If I had a bad day, I would walk over and talk to Martin about it. It was quite challenging especially for the kids. They were far away from home and their families.   Sometimes they thought they were on a school trip and acted like it, it was quite exhausting.

Martin Zandvliet: Pretty exhausting.

Roland Møller: We had a guardian for them for a while but ultimately at the end, however that job was put on me. But I have to say, I really enjoyed looking after them and ultimately they looked after me as well.

Film Shot 2How difficult was your role and to be so hard on those young boys?

Roland Møller: It wasn’t very easy and a great challenge for me. I’m used to playing the villain and I know that I can scare people. The big difference for me was to touch people at the same time. But many people have come to me and said: You have really touched me.  Therefore, I think I got that part down pretty good. We have talked a lot about this character. It was especially important that his change within the story is believable. It is easy to be the villain but with all the emotions he experiencing it was hard to show the good side.

Do you think that you can hate so much?

Martin Zandvliet: I think it is possible.

But then how can such hatred turn into affection?

Martin Zandvliet: I think it has a lot to do with how much time you spend with a person. You’re with them all through the day and you get to know them, you realize that they have the same needs as you do the same desire for love and affection. You laugh and weep over the same things. That breaks all the boundaries: skin color, culture, religion, just everything. I believe very strongly in change and transformation and those we all develop this in ourselves. It is our responsibility to be better human beings.

How do you think the audiences will feel about this film? There are not many films about the Second World War, in which the Germans are the victims.

Roland Møller: Germany is the only country where I have a few doubts that this film will be accepted. I’m not worried about the rest of the world, but the Germans are still carrying a big burden on their shoulders.

Martin Zandvliet: The only reason why I have decided to make this movie was because it was never made by Germans. This is a major issue in the film. You understand one side, but also the other. After watching five minutes of the movie you will realize that the Germans aren’t the villains in this story.  When you see the movie you’ll forget about that. It’s an emotional roller coaster. This story needs to be told we need to change that part of history. History needs to change and we need to change with it, we cannot always just look back.