Featuring a triumphant performance by Mads Mikkelsen as Captain Ludvig Kahlen, THE PROMISED LAND is a gorgeous --- and epic --- tale of love, desire and ambition. Set in 18th century Denmark, based on the novel “The Captain and Ann Barbara” by Ida Jessen, director Nikolaj Arcel and screenwriter Anders Thomas Jensen have done a superb job of bringing this timeless story to the big screen.
Captain Kahlen has just completed 25 years of service in the German army and is a decorated war hero. Unfortunately, he also has very little money --- only what’s left of his army pension. But he seeks his fortune in an area of land designated as uninhabitable --- the heath, Jutland, a place where nothing will grow.
The King of Denmark has offered acreage in this territory for free --- and a noble title plus a manor home to anyone who can colonize it. Kahlen, despite obstacles from the King’s minions, sets out to do just that.
Not only must Kahlen deal with the harsh landscape, but he learns that an unscrupulous nobleman, Frederik De Schinkel (Simon Bennebjerg), thinks he rules the area instead of the king. Consequently, De Schinkel does everything in his power to ruin Kahlen’s plans of farming and starting a colony.
Complicating matters even further is De Schinkel’s cousin, Edel Helene (Kristine Kujath Thorp), who is supposed to marry De Schinkel to save her family but is vehemently opposed to the idea. She is more interested in Kahlen and wants him to be successful so he can rescue her from the evil De Schinkel.
And one of De Schinkel’s former serfs, Ann Barbara (Amanda Collin), whom he sexually abused, is living and working with Kahlen on the farm, along with a little gypsy girl named Anmai Mus (Melina Hagberg), whom the settlers believe is cursed.
THE PROMISED LAND is the kind of sprawling saga rarely seen anymore. Arcel and his stoic lead actor have managed to replicate a vision of Jessen’s creation that is unforgettable. From the vast barrenness of the Jutland to the comfort and elegance of De Schinkel’s grand estate, Arcel’s film explores the upheaval of this era and its political ramifications.
Mikkelsen is simply divine. His rugged good looks and physique have always made him an exceptional villain, and here he plays a farmer of few words with aplomb. He and Arcel are friends in real life and they enjoyed their time working on THE PROMISED LAND. The conditions were brutal at times --- and the end results confirm that.
The cinematography by Rasmus Videbæk is breathtaking
--- exposing filmgoers to the harshness and exquisite beauty of the heath. THE PROMISED LAND should have been nominated for Best International Feature Film. It definitely deserves the recognition.
Opinion: Strong See It Now!
Starring the impeccable Mads Mikkelsen in an heroic role --- he is frequently known for his villainous portrayals --- THE PROMISED LAND is one of the best films of 2023. In addition to Mikkelsen’s riveting performance as Captain Ludvig Kahlen, the movie also features an exceptionally evil antagonist, Frederik De Schinkel, played with venom by Simon Bennebjerg. The rest of the ensemble cast is splendid, especially Amanda Collin as the feisty Ann Barbara.
Directed and co-written by Nikolaj Arcel (co-writer for THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO), THE PROMISED LAND --- based on a book by Ida Jessen --- tells the inspirational 18th century tale of a 25-year German army veteran who wants to make a name for himself in his later years. Captain Kahlen believes a large plot of undeveloped land called the Jutland, a heath, can be fertile enough to harvest potatoes. This would potentially lead to an influx of workers and a substantial group of settlers, thus satisfying the king’s long-held desire for the Jutland to be colonized. However, De Schinkel believes he alone owns the land and tries to thwart Kahlen at every turn.
THE PROMISED LAND represents a classic struggle of good vs. evil and the undying resolve of a truly good man. It ranks as one of Mikkelsen’s finest performances. Academy Award winner Anders Thomas Jensen collaborated with Arcel on the adapted screenplay. The fabulous cinematography by Rasmus Videbæk and music by much-decorated American composer Dan Romer complement this stirring and unique story.
It is the kind of movie that audiences will appreciate --- a true crowd pleaser with a genuine protagonist. It also proves that size does matter, at least in 18th century Denmark. The film affirms that the prestige of a Danish man in 1755 primarily depended on the amount of land he owns and the breadth of his estate.
THE PROMISED LAND is an exceptional movie that was submitted as Denmark’s entry for Best International Feature Film at the next Academy Awards. Named this past December as one of 15 films shortlisted for an eventual nomination, THE PROMISED LAND, unfortunately, did not make the final five.
Opinion: Strong See It Now!