‘Dark’ Showrunners Answer Our Nagging Questions About Season 1 and Tease Their Plans for Season 2

(Major spoilers ahead for the first season of the Netflix original series “Dark”)

OK, so you made it all the way through “Dark,” the twisty and ingenious new German time travel show on Netflix. You enjoyed it, but you came out the other side with some big questions.

That’s totally understandable! “Dark” is certainly a very dense show, with a ton of moving parts and — this is key — an approach to time travel that requires viewers to pay much closer attention than they would during normal binge sessions.

Also Read: 15 Time Travel TV Shows You Should Be Watching Right Now, From ’12 Monkeys’ to ‘Dark’ (Photos)

Here’s how it works: in 1986, an incident at a nuclear plant created a wormhole that allows anyone who enters it to travel through time — but only to points exactly 33 years apart in 1953, 1986, and 2019. Travelers from one of those years can visit either of the other two, but someone could not, for example, travel to 1982 from 2015, or 1920 from 1953.

Travelers can also go only 33 years from the exact moment they entered the wormhole. If someone on July 1 2019 wanted to see what it was like June 1, 1986, they’d have to take the long way — by going all the way back to 1953 and waiting. In the show this is why Ulrich (Oliver Masucci) tried to kill Helge as a child in 1953. It was the only way to save his brother Mads from being kidnapped and murdered in 1986 without becoming an old man along the way.

And finally, the “Dark” version of time travel uses the “deterministic” template. This means travelers cannot change anything in the past, because whatever they try to do would simply be the thing that always happened. Ulrich, for instance, failed to kill Helge in 1953, which becomes both the reason adult Helge’s ear was messed up, and the event that set Helge on the path to kidnapping and murdering Mads.

To get across how all of that limits the amount of possible time travel shenanigans, “Dark” depicts all three time periods in parallel.

Headache inducing stuff, and even after watching the ten-episode season twice I had some lingering questions. So I took them directly to the source: creators Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese, who were very open with me as they helped me sift through their beautiful madness.

First, we discussed the rules of of “Dark,” particularly the time travel determinism that, of course, introduces paradoxes which cannot be explained and that we as viewers ultimately have to accept as unexplained. That’s intentional and part of the fun, says Odar, who compared it to the classic philosophic question of whether the chicken or the egg came first.

Also Read: Top 25 Best Netflix Original Series, Ranked From Great to Phenomenal (Photos)

“We really really like that question, because there’s no answer to it, or at least humans can’t give an answer to it,” Odar said. “Everything that feels mysterious like this we really love in our stories as well, where you really raise a question that no one can answer.”

So that’s important to keep in mind. There simply are no answers to some of the questions you may have about “Dark,” because some things are intentionally paradoxical. One such paradox with I discussed with Friese and Odar, which I think sums all this up pretty well, involves the “Journey Through Time” book written by the Winden’s resident watchmaker, H.G. Tannhaus (Christian Steyer in 1986 and Arnd Klawitter in 1953). The book shows up all over the show, and Tannhaus is actually the person who provides occasional cryptic narration about the nature of time throughout the season. And the book itself is a crucially important item that can be easy to overlook when you try to break down the big picture.

The key moment for the book comes when Ulrich travels to 1953 with a copy of the book on him. He pays Tannhaus a visit in that year to consult with him on all this time travel mess, and he leaves it behind when he sets out to try to find out if one of the dead bodies the police had found was his brother Mads.

“Basically [Tannhaus] gets the book as a young clockmaker and starts venturing out into this whole idea and this whole mindset,” Friese told me. “Then he reads his own words and just writes them down again and it gets published.”

Also Read: 5 Reasons Why You Should Be Watching ‘Dark,’ Netflix’s New Twisty German Time Travel Show

So where did the book originally come from? It’s a paradox, because he essentially plagiarized himself in order to write the book and it’s impossible, for now, to figure where the ideas contained within it originated.

But many things can be answered, and let’s get to those things.

Probably the biggest question I had involved two characters who time traveled but who were not shown crawling through the wormhole cave: Mikkel (Daan Lennard Liebrenz), whose disappearance triggers the plot of the series, and Claudia’s dog Gretchen, who goes missing in 1953 and then suddenly appears in 1986. For Gretchen in particular there’s no way for her to have accidentally traveled to the past, because going through the wormhole requires you to open doors, something dogs cannot do. And it seemed unlikely that Mikkel time traveled of his own accord because he and Janos (Louis Hoffman) were running away from the cave during when he disappeared.

When I brought up this question, Odar answered by reminding me of the conflict that’s going on behind the scenes throughout the season, between Claudia (Julika Jenkins in 1986 and Lisa Kreuser in 2019) and Noah (Mark Waschke).

Also Read: Here’s Everything Coming to and Leaving Netflix in January

“They are trying to manipulate things in time, or at least to move pawns on a chess board,” Odar said, as he emphasized how crucial those two incidents are to the overall arc of the show. “Mikkel is a trigger for a lot of characters in the story. His disappearance is like a big stone that keeps everything rolling. And for Claudia [the trigger] is definitely Gretchen.” 

What he’s saying is that someone did those things essentially to fulfill the time loop, which is a paradoxical concept — characters traveling through time in order to do things that they already have experienced. For Claudia, Gretchen’s sudden appearance in 1986 is seemingly what set her on her journey through time, which to me implies that Claudia herself was responsible for that. And Mikkel’s disappearance is what set everyone off in 2019 — the timing of which makes me think that Janos handled that since, given what I mentioned above about the three periods taking place in parallel, with Janos being the only character who is shown to have traveled outside those bounds and thus the only person who would have even known the timing of Mikkel’s disappearance.

Odar also said those two incidents will be explored further in season 2 should Netflix renew “Dark.” For now, we’re left to speculate about who did what, since obviously he and Friese aren’t going to drop those spoilers right now.

Speaking of Janos: he serves as sort of the lynchpin of everything that happens, thanks to the older Janos’s (Andreas Pietschmann) action at the end of the season using some sort of time device to erase the wormhole. Noah says as much during his narration over that scene, that what Janos is doing will somehow cause the wormhole to come into being several months earlier. Friese elaborated a little bit on what exactly happened there.

He’s putting a component there that is important for it to be there so that the actual opening can happen when it happens,” Friese said, “and it has something to do with the cesium that he leaves there.” Cesium is the nuclear material that makes the time device function, as Janos explains to Tannhaus, the watchmaker, before enacting his plan. What’s also interesting is what that implies about Noah, since nobody else demonstrated they knew the specific cause of the wormhole beyond it being related to an accident at the nuclear plant.

As for what happens to the younger Janos after his older self destroys the wormhole, seemingly transporting him to a post-apocalyptic future in which the nuclear plant melted down. “At the end we open another door,” Friese said, “but we can’t explain to you yet exactly [what that door is].”

What Friese says there is hugely important to keep in mind as the series moves forward (fingers crossed) — it implies that this other door could have its own, new set of rules, or that the ruleset will be expanded somewhat as we explore a new layer to all this madness. The fact that Janos appeared to have traveled beyond the constraints of the 1986 wormhole already gave that impression, but Friese referring to that event as “another door” cements that feeling.

It also makes the wait for a hypothetical season 2 all the more excruciating.

Related stories from TheWrap:

15 Time Travel TV Shows You Should Be Watching Right Now, From ’12 Monkeys’ to ‘Dark’ (Photos)

5 Reasons Why You Should Be Watching ‘Dark,’ Netflix’s New Twisty German Time Travel Show

Top 25 Best Netflix Original Series, Ranked From Great to Phenomenal (Photos)

(Major spoilers ahead for the first season of the Netflix original series “Dark”)

OK, so you made it all the way through “Dark,” the twisty and ingenious new German time travel show on Netflix. You enjoyed it, but you came out the other side with some big questions.

That’s totally understandable! “Dark” is certainly a very dense show, with a ton of moving parts and — this is key — an approach to time travel that requires viewers to pay much closer attention than they would during normal binge sessions.

Here’s how it works: in 1986, an incident at a nuclear plant created a wormhole that allows anyone who enters it to travel through time — but only to points exactly 33 years apart in 1953, 1986, and 2019. Travelers from one of those years can visit either of the other two, but someone could not, for example, travel to 1982 from 2015, or 1920 from 1953.

Travelers can also go only 33 years from the exact moment they entered the wormhole. If someone on July 1 2019 wanted to see what it was like June 1, 1986, they’d have to take the long way — by going all the way back to 1953 and waiting. In the show this is why Ulrich (Oliver Masucci) tried to kill Helge as a child in 1953. It was the only way to save his brother Mads from being kidnapped and murdered in 1986 without becoming an old man along the way.

And finally, the “Dark” version of time travel uses the “deterministic” template. This means travelers cannot change anything in the past, because whatever they try to do would simply be the thing that always happened. Ulrich, for instance, failed to kill Helge in 1953, which becomes both the reason adult Helge’s ear was messed up, and the event that set Helge on the path to kidnapping and murdering Mads.

To get across how all of that limits the amount of possible time travel shenanigans, “Dark” depicts all three time periods in parallel.

Headache inducing stuff, and even after watching the ten-episode season twice I had some lingering questions. So I took them directly to the source: creators Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese, who were very open with me as they helped me sift through their beautiful madness.

First, we discussed the rules of of “Dark,” particularly the time travel determinism that, of course, introduces paradoxes which cannot be explained and that we as viewers ultimately have to accept as unexplained. That’s intentional and part of the fun, says Odar, who compared it to the classic philosophic question of whether the chicken or the egg came first.

“We really really like that question, because there’s no answer to it, or at least humans can’t give an answer to it,” Odar said. “Everything that feels mysterious like this we really love in our stories as well, where you really raise a question that no one can answer.”

So that’s important to keep in mind. There simply are no answers to some of the questions you may have about “Dark,” because some things are intentionally paradoxical. One such paradox with I discussed with Friese and Odar, which I think sums all this up pretty well, involves the “Journey Through Time” book written by the Winden’s resident watchmaker, H.G. Tannhaus (Christian Steyer in 1986 and Arnd Klawitter in 1953). The book shows up all over the show, and Tannhaus is actually the person who provides occasional cryptic narration about the nature of time throughout the season. And the book itself is a crucially important item that can be easy to overlook when you try to break down the big picture.

The key moment for the book comes when Ulrich travels to 1953 with a copy of the book on him. He pays Tannhaus a visit in that year to consult with him on all this time travel mess, and he leaves it behind when he sets out to try to find out if one of the dead bodies the police had found was his brother Mads.

“Basically [Tannhaus] gets the book as a young clockmaker and starts venturing out into this whole idea and this whole mindset,” Friese told me. “Then he reads his own words and just writes them down again and it gets published.”

So where did the book originally come from? It’s a paradox, because he essentially plagiarized himself in order to write the book and it’s impossible, for now, to figure where the ideas contained within it originated.

But many things can be answered, and let’s get to those things.

Probably the biggest question I had involved two characters who time traveled but who were not shown crawling through the wormhole cave: Mikkel (Daan Lennard Liebrenz), whose disappearance triggers the plot of the series, and Claudia’s dog Gretchen, who goes missing in 1953 and then suddenly appears in 1986. For Gretchen in particular there’s no way for her to have accidentally traveled to the past, because going through the wormhole requires you to open doors, something dogs cannot do. And it seemed unlikely that Mikkel time traveled of his own accord because he and Janos (Louis Hoffman) were running away from the cave during when he disappeared.

When I brought up this question, Odar answered by reminding me of the conflict that’s going on behind the scenes throughout the season, between Claudia (Julika Jenkins in 1986 and Lisa Kreuser in 2019) and Noah (Mark Waschke).

“They are trying to manipulate things in time, or at least to move pawns on a chess board,” Odar said, as he emphasized how crucial those two incidents are to the overall arc of the show. “Mikkel is a trigger for a lot of characters in the story. His disappearance is like a big stone that keeps everything rolling. And for Claudia [the trigger] is definitely Gretchen.” 

What he’s saying is that someone did those things essentially to fulfill the time loop, which is a paradoxical concept — characters traveling through time in order to do things that they already have experienced. For Claudia, Gretchen’s sudden appearance in 1986 is seemingly what set her on her journey through time, which to me implies that Claudia herself was responsible for that. And Mikkel’s disappearance is what set everyone off in 2019 — the timing of which makes me think that Janos handled that since, given what I mentioned above about the three periods taking place in parallel, with Janos being the only character who is shown to have traveled outside those bounds and thus the only person who would have even known the timing of Mikkel’s disappearance.

Odar also said those two incidents will be explored further in season 2 should Netflix renew “Dark.” For now, we’re left to speculate about who did what, since obviously he and Friese aren’t going to drop those spoilers right now.

Speaking of Janos: he serves as sort of the lynchpin of everything that happens, thanks to the older Janos’s (Andreas Pietschmann) action at the end of the season using some sort of time device to erase the wormhole. Noah says as much during his narration over that scene, that what Janos is doing will somehow cause the wormhole to come into being several months earlier. Friese elaborated a little bit on what exactly happened there.

He’s putting a component there that is important for it to be there so that the actual opening can happen when it happens,” Friese said, “and it has something to do with the cesium that he leaves there.” Cesium is the nuclear material that makes the time device function, as Janos explains to Tannhaus, the watchmaker, before enacting his plan. What’s also interesting is what that implies about Noah, since nobody else demonstrated they knew the specific cause of the wormhole beyond it being related to an accident at the nuclear plant.

As for what happens to the younger Janos after his older self destroys the wormhole, seemingly transporting him to a post-apocalyptic future in which the nuclear plant melted down. “At the end we open another door,” Friese said, “but we can’t explain to you yet exactly [what that door is].”

What Friese says there is hugely important to keep in mind as the series moves forward (fingers crossed) — it implies that this other door could have its own, new set of rules, or that the ruleset will be expanded somewhat as we explore a new layer to all this madness. The fact that Janos appeared to have traveled beyond the constraints of the 1986 wormhole already gave that impression, but Friese referring to that event as “another door” cements that feeling.

It also makes the wait for a hypothetical season 2 all the more excruciating.

Related stories from TheWrap:

15 Time Travel TV Shows You Should Be Watching Right Now, From '12 Monkeys' to 'Dark' (Photos)

5 Reasons Why You Should Be Watching 'Dark,' Netflix's New Twisty German Time Travel Show

Top 25 Best Netflix Original Series, Ranked From Great to Phenomenal (Photos)

‘Dark’ Theories and Burning Questions: Jonas’ Fate, the Wallpapered Room, and That Massive Back Tattoo

We’re still trying to make sense of Netflix’s maddening-but-addictive new show.

[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers from the entirety of Netflix’s series “Dark.”]

Netflix’s German supernatural mystery thriller doesn’t fit neatly into any puzzle box, but it sure is addictive and intriguing. Initially built around the case of a missing boy in Winden, “Dark” quickly bursts through the confines of the small town — not by reaching beyond its borders, but beyond its time. The curious time travel element, however, is a tricky one, and two warring forces are trying to control it. Unfortunately, it seems that many young boys have been caught in the middle.

The time travel occurs in 33-year increments, which creates a curious connection with Winden’s past, present, and future. In particular, viewers have gotten to know the young, middle-aged, and older versions of the same characters that hail from a few major families. Trying to keep the various surnames, generations, and each person’s secrets straight is difficult enough, but throw in a kidnapping priest, arcane references, mutilated corpses, birds and sheep dropping dead, and fun ‘80s pop tunes? Pure madness.

If viewers are anything like IndieWire’s critics, they have more than a few burning questions now after watching the 10-episode first season of “Dark.” Here are the biggest head-scratchers:

When is Jonas?

Louis Hoffman, "Dark"

Louis Hoffman, “Dark”

Julia Terjung/Netflix

At the center of it all is Jonas Kahnwald (Louis Hoffman), a young man with a complex time-travel-tainted genealogy. In the very last scene, he emerges from a bunker and into a desolate world full of burning vehicles and other remnants of destruction. A strange aircraft flies overhead. He meets up with a vehicle full of people wielding guns, and just before one young woman hits him on the head, she tells him, “Welcome to the future.”

The most obvious conclusion is that Jonas traveled to 2052, which is 33 years in the future from his present year, 2019. But why not 2085 or even beyond that? After all, “Dark’s” time travel doesn’t only happen 33 years before or after from your own time; increments of 33 years work as well. Ulrich (Oliver Masucci) walked through the time tunnel from 2019 back to 1954.

Plus, if you think about it, Jonas was in in the crazy wallpaper room in 1986 (judging by what’s on rotation on the TV there). When he reached across the time rift to young Helge in 1953, Helge took his place just as Old Jonas’ time machine’s radioactive Cesium set everything off. There’s no telling when in time Jonas ended up.

All that being said, we hope it’s 2052, when the offspring of the characters we met in 2019 might be still alive. That young woman who knocked Jonas down appears to looks like she could be a descendant of Martha (Lisa Vicari), his problematic love interest who turned out to be his aunt through a weird twist of fate (and time travel). Then again, if he’s meant to fall for this girl, it would be best to avoid any whiffs of almost-incest.

What Happened in the Future?

No matter when in time Jonas is, he appears to have entered a post-apocalyptic landscape, which would explain why the show’s creators told IndieWire that there would be many new characters introduced if Season 2 happens. Even if it was 2052, many of the people we had met in 2019 may have died if a major destructive event happened. If it’s even farther in the future, then many people would have died of old age.

It’s unclear why the future is on fire, but given the amount of people roving with guns a la “Road Warrior,” this could be the product of limited resources and looting. Then again, Winden is also the site of a nuclear plant that has been storing its barrels of waste in the tunnels underneath the town (and in a truck temporarily). Within the 1986 timeframe, there are many references to Chernobyl as well, so it’s very possible that was foreshadowing Winden’s own catastrophic nuclear accident.

Who or What Is Noah?

Mark Waschke, "Dark"

Mark Waschke, “Dark”

Netflix

If one listens to Noah (Mark Waschke) the priest — and at the very least Helge has — Noah is doing God’s work by trying to unlock the secrets of time travel. The only problem is that in order to attain this goal he feels justified in abducting boys and experimenting on them in a way that kills them.

“The world is doomed to be destroyed. But this here — this is our ark,” Noah says, indicating the bunker that has been transformed into the crazy wallpaper room. “And I’m Noah. If we can harness this energy, we can change everything. Then we decide the world’s fate, far removed from all the evil and from all pain. We’ll create a time machine that reorders everything, the beginning and the end.”

It should be noted that he already seems to have uncovered the secret to eternal youth, which could indicate that he himself might be a time traveler in some way. He also seems to know the police chief Charlotte (Karoline Eichhorn) at some point since he had what looks like a watch engraved with “To Charlotte” on it. She didn’t seem to recognize it, so that could mean it’s from the future.

Then again, he could be something a bit more supernatural. When discussing the number 33, it’s mentioned that the Anti-Christ began his reign at that age. The show then cuts to Noah…which can’t really be a coincidence, right? But perhaps he’s actually the good guy that he claims to be, according to some other clues. See below.

What Is the Significance of Noah’s Back Tattoo and the Trinity Knot?

Mark Waschke, "Dark"

Mark Waschke, “Dark”

Netflix

Despite Noah’s Christian trappings, he may actually follow the occult teaching of Hermeticism, which encompasses Christianity since it believes in prisca theologia, a doctrine that asserts that a single, true theology exists, which threads through all religions. And although this is monotheistic, Hermeticism also believes in other beings such as angels and elementals in the universe. Perhaps Noah is not quite human.

Hermeticism believes that there are three parts of the wisdom of the universe: alchemy (which is not confined to just transforming lead into gold), astrology, and theurgy, a type of white magic the relies on an alliance with a being such as an angel. The trinity knot, which originated with pagan symbolism, on Noah’s book could represent this. (Christianity adopted it to symbolize the Holy Trinity.)

Noah’s back tattoo is perhaps the most glaring sign of his belief. It’s the depiction of the Emerald Tablet, which is an ancient wisdom text that discusses prima materia, basically the building blocks, the essence of all matter and what’s needed to make the philosopher’s stone (which has properties of alchemy). The tablet also contains the phrase, which the series rendered in Latin, “Sic Mundus Creatus Est,” or “So was the world created.”

What Is Claudia Up To?

Lisa Kreuzer, "Dark"

Lisa Kreuzer, “Dark”

Netflix

Noah claims that Claudia Tiedemann (Lisa Kreuzer) means to do evil. This seems odd because her family has been with the town for at least four generations (her dad was with the police, her daughter runs the Wald Hotel, and her grandson is Jonas’ schoolmate). Since Noah kills boys, he might not be the most reliable source of information, but we’ll reserve judgment for now.

The older Claudia, however, has been traveling throughout time and connecting with various characters whom we’ve met. For one, she gave the clockmaker/time professor H.G. Tannhaus (Christian Steyer) – perhaps named in honor of “The Time Machine” author H.G. Wells – the original blueprints for the time travel device that he makes, with the intent to supposedly set time straight. This sounds great if it saves boys’ lives, but of course that may mean that Jonas would no longer exist since his father was a boy in 2019 who traveled back in time to 1986, where he met and eventually married Jonas’ mom.

What Happened to Each of the Boys Who Went Missing?

"Dark"

“Dark”

Netflix

The only confirmed whereabouts of a missing boy is Mads (Valentin Oppermann), the brother of Ulrich. He went missing in 1986, but somehow showed up freshly dead in 2019, still dressed totally ‘80s with a Walkman. Ulrich can’t quite believe it since it doesn’t really make sense. (What’s odd is that no one does a DNA test on him. Sure, it’s a small town, but they can take a sample and send it off to a lab.)

In 2019, Erik Obendorf (Paul Radom) and then Basin (Vice Muck), the “boyfriend” of Charlotte’s daughter, go missing. Back in 1953, the bodies of two boys are found that match their descriptions (you really can’t miss Erik’s distinctive red hair), and both sport clothing tags that read “Made in China.” It’s very possible that these are the two missing boys.

Why Are Young Boys Targeted?

Hermann Beyer, "Dark"

Hermann Beyer, “Dark”

Netflix

So far, all the victims of Noah’s experimentation appear to have been boys. Mads, Erik, Yasin, and then Jonas, although he escapes. Why not adults? Why not women?

Perhaps the clues lie within Helge (Hermann Beyer), who was only 9 years old when he woke up in the crazy wallpaper room. If that room is in fact in 1986, then he somehow must have been able travel back in time to his original year of 1953. When we first meet him, he’s an old man in 2019. If he had just stayed in 1986 and grown up from there, he’d only be middle-aged in 2019.

Therefore, if Helge is able to travel back somehow, using the torture machine, maybe Noah took that as a sign that young boys are good for his experiment. It’s a shaky premise of course, but it’s all we’ve got for now. Obviously, traveling via time tunnel is far more egalitarian since it’ll take adults like Ulrich and even the dog Gretchen. Helge could have returned home via the cave’s time tunnel as well.

Continue to Page 2 for Martha’s play, that wallpaper, and more>>

‘Land of Mine’ Review: Danish Oscar Entry Recounts a Dark WWII Story

After 70 years of World War II being mined for cinematic stories, it would seem as if no fresh stories are left to be told — but writer-director Martin Zandvliet has managed to unearth “Land of Mine,” set in the immediate aftermath of the war.

A group of barely pubescent captured German soldiers are ordered by Danish authorities in 1945 to find, disable and remove a good portion of the 2 million landmines planted by the Germans along the coast of Denmark. Now that the war is over, the moral responsibility is obvious: It seems logical that the defeated German forces should take on this perilous task, since it was their country that laid the mines in the first place.

While it’s a fictional tale, “Land of Mine” is based on history. Many of those who swept and cleared Nazi mines in Denmark were teenage boys. The use of children for WWII minesweeping was later decried by historians as the worst case of war crimes ever committed by the Danish.

Also Read: Academy Calls Possible Ban of Asghar Farhadi from Oscars ‘Extremely Troubling’

Zandvliet puts a human face on the German soldiers, and that visage is fresh-faced, frightened and homesick. Their assignment is fraught with massive peril. If these soldiers make the slightest mistake, they will be horribly maimed if not blown up and killed.

The powerfully suspenseful story focuses on group of 14 surrendered German soldiers — a few looking scarcely into their teens — as they work on a desolate, seemingly endless, stretch of beach. It’s vividly illuminating about European post-war attitudes: the Germans were the unmitigated villains, even these lowliest conscripted soldiers whose only desire was to get back home to their families. The wrath felt towards them allowed their Danish captors to behave viciously, in the name of righteous anger.

Also Read: Jack Nicholson, Kristen Wiig to Star in ‘Toni Erdmann’ Remake

Sgt. Carl Rasmussen (an excellent Roland Moller, “A Hijacking”) treats the young soldiers with unconcealed contempt. He oversees their dangerous land mine work in an extraordinarily abusive and cold-hearted fashion, but he softens somewhat as he realizes these soldiers are mostly scared, dutiful youths. “You should have told me I was getting little boys,” he complains to his superior. Just when it seems the film might be growing predictable, it takes a turn and subverts our expectations; much of the film’s power lies in these unexpected curves.

Nominated for the Best Foreign Film Oscar, “Land of Mine” is a powerful epic, superbly acted, tense and unsettling, but also poignant and occasionally tender. Moller plays Rasmussen with complexity and depth; he’s already won several awards for his performance in Europe, and deservedly so. He kicks off the film in a ferocious mood as he watches conquered German troops file past him.

He assaults one of them for a mild offense and unleashes a fury that seems to encompass the world’s enmity toward the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany. “This is my country,” he bellows. “You’re not welcome here!” While the viewer recoils from his vicious attack, we comprehend what drives it, and that’s the beauty of this film: we understand all sides.

While the film lays bare the highly charged emotions in the months following the Second World War, it also feels timely in the wake of the presidential effort to ban Muslims from the United States. Humans are quick to blame and vilify, but when they get to know those they perceive as the enemy, matters grow more complicated. Rasmussen stands in for anyone who has demonized an entire race or nationality for the actions of a few. His emotional evolution conveys the glimmer of human decency.

Also Read: UTA Cancels Oscar Party to Host Immigration Rally

The film’s only mild weakness is that a few of the 14 men in the squad are not developed fully enough. It’s not that that all blond Aryan soldiers look alike, but here it can feel that way. Perhaps it was Zandvliet’s intent to make several of the prisoners seem interchangeable, since that is how they might seem to their enemies, and to Rasmussen. (It brings to mind “Black Hawk Down,” where it was tough to tell one of the helmeted Americans from the other.)

But a few of the Germans leave an indelible impression: A pair of sweetly devoted twins Ernst (Emil Belton) and Werner (Oskar Belton) are perhaps the most memorable, followed by Sebastian (Louis Hoffman), who serves as the group’s unofficial protector and conscience. These young men are housed in a rickety shack, given minimal nourishment and tasked with rendering a lonesome swath of Danish coastline safe again. They must find and defuse 45,000 land mines buried under the sand, unscrew the detonators carefully, and gently lift them out of their hiding places. It’s an unimaginably dangerous assignment and we watch, with wracked nerves and heart in mouth.

The title, while easy to remember, is an unfortunate play on words, making this deadly serious subject seem almost jokey. The original Danish title is more apt: “Under the Sand.”

Camila Hjelm’s superb painterly cinematography renders that sand and the stark, grey windswept beach into a haunting character of its own. Zandvliet’s bleak compositions are particularly striking — soldiers lying facedown on the sand, inching along and fixedly disarming mines, their youthful skin almost one with the pale beach in contrast with dark warning flags dotting the landscape. His use of ambient sound, waves lapping in the background, creates a timeless counterpoint to their urgent work.

Sune Martin’s spare but evocative score adds to the compelling, emotional experience that is “Land of Mine.” While it is painful to watch the young soldiers face potential doom, the gradual redemption of their superior offers a palpable sense of hope.

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After 70 years of World War II being mined for cinematic stories, it would seem as if no fresh stories are left to be told — but writer-director Martin Zandvliet has managed to unearth “Land of Mine,” set in the immediate aftermath of the war.

A group of barely pubescent captured German soldiers are ordered by Danish authorities in 1945 to find, disable and remove a good portion of the 2 million landmines planted by the Germans along the coast of Denmark. Now that the war is over, the moral responsibility is obvious: It seems logical that the defeated German forces should take on this perilous task, since it was their country that laid the mines in the first place.

While it’s a fictional tale, “Land of Mine” is based on history. Many of those who swept and cleared Nazi mines in Denmark were teenage boys. The use of children for WWII minesweeping was later decried by historians as the worst case of war crimes ever committed by the Danish.

Zandvliet puts a human face on the German soldiers, and that visage is fresh-faced, frightened and homesick. Their assignment is fraught with massive peril. If these soldiers make the slightest mistake, they will be horribly maimed if not blown up and killed.

The powerfully suspenseful story focuses on group of 14 surrendered German soldiers — a few looking scarcely into their teens — as they work on a desolate, seemingly endless, stretch of beach. It’s vividly illuminating about European post-war attitudes: the Germans were the unmitigated villains, even these lowliest conscripted soldiers whose only desire was to get back home to their families. The wrath felt towards them allowed their Danish captors to behave viciously, in the name of righteous anger.

Sgt. Carl Rasmussen (an excellent Roland Moller, “A Hijacking”) treats the young soldiers with unconcealed contempt. He oversees their dangerous land mine work in an extraordinarily abusive and cold-hearted fashion, but he softens somewhat as he realizes these soldiers are mostly scared, dutiful youths. “You should have told me I was getting little boys,” he complains to his superior. Just when it seems the film might be growing predictable, it takes a turn and subverts our expectations; much of the film’s power lies in these unexpected curves.

Nominated for the Best Foreign Film Oscar, “Land of Mine” is a powerful epic, superbly acted, tense and unsettling, but also poignant and occasionally tender. Moller plays Rasmussen with complexity and depth; he’s already won several awards for his performance in Europe, and deservedly so. He kicks off the film in a ferocious mood as he watches conquered German troops file past him.

He assaults one of them for a mild offense and unleashes a fury that seems to encompass the world’s enmity toward the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany. “This is my country,” he bellows. “You’re not welcome here!” While the viewer recoils from his vicious attack, we comprehend what drives it, and that’s the beauty of this film: we understand all sides.

While the film lays bare the highly charged emotions in the months following the Second World War, it also feels timely in the wake of the presidential effort to ban Muslims from the United States. Humans are quick to blame and vilify, but when they get to know those they perceive as the enemy, matters grow more complicated. Rasmussen stands in for anyone who has demonized an entire race or nationality for the actions of a few. His emotional evolution conveys the glimmer of human decency.

The film’s only mild weakness is that a few of the 14 men in the squad are not developed fully enough. It’s not that that all blond Aryan soldiers look alike, but here it can feel that way. Perhaps it was Zandvliet’s intent to make several of the prisoners seem interchangeable, since that is how they might seem to their enemies, and to Rasmussen. (It brings to mind “Black Hawk Down,” where it was tough to tell one of the helmeted Americans from the other.)

But a few of the Germans leave an indelible impression: A pair of sweetly devoted twins Ernst (Emil Belton) and Werner (Oskar Belton) are perhaps the most memorable, followed by Sebastian (Louis Hoffman), who serves as the group’s unofficial protector and conscience. These young men are housed in a rickety shack, given minimal nourishment and tasked with rendering a lonesome swath of Danish coastline safe again. They must find and defuse 45,000 land mines buried under the sand, unscrew the detonators carefully, and gently lift them out of their hiding places. It’s an unimaginably dangerous assignment and we watch, with wracked nerves and heart in mouth.

The title, while easy to remember, is an unfortunate play on words, making this deadly serious subject seem almost jokey. The original Danish title is more apt: “Under the Sand.”

Camila Hjelm’s superb painterly cinematography renders that sand and the stark, grey windswept beach into a haunting character of its own. Zandvliet’s bleak compositions are particularly striking — soldiers lying facedown on the sand, inching along and fixedly disarming mines, their youthful skin almost one with the pale beach in contrast with dark warning flags dotting the landscape. His use of ambient sound, waves lapping in the background, creates a timeless counterpoint to their urgent work.

Sune Martin’s spare but evocative score adds to the compelling, emotional experience that is “Land of Mine.” While it is painful to watch the young soldiers face potential doom, the gradual redemption of their superior offers a palpable sense of hope.

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