Coming to theatres from writer/director Nikolaj Arcel and Magnolia Pictures is a drama of power, love and a belief in THE PROMISED LAND.
It is Denmark in the 18th century as Captain Ludvig Kahlen (Mads Mikkelsen), giving twenty-five years of military service, asks his King for land to farm and create a settlement on the Jutland. Fighting others in the King’s court, he tells them that his own money will fund the farming in exchange for land and title. This is enough to be allowed a patent as he gathers supplies and heads to a remote piece of land, he deems farmable to begin.
Unhappy about it is Frederik De Schinkel (Simon Bennebjerg) of Hald Manor, a spoiled man and heinous landowner who believed the land Kahlen has taken actually belongs to him. Especially when two of his indentured servants, Ann Barbara (Amanda Collin) and Johannes (Morten Hee Andersen) have made a run for it. Needing help to start the farm, Kahlen takes in the two servants and also tries to hire Romani Tatere upsetting Schinkel further.
That is when Schinkel decides he will do whatever it takes to force Kahlen off the land. What he doesn’t realize is that the woman he is suppose to marry, Edel Helene (Kristine Kujath) wants Kahlen to help her get away. By becoming a nobleman, he would be able to marry her instead. The quiet Captain wants to be able to make his dream come true and moves forward with his settlement plan.
When Ann Barbara’s life changes, so does that of the young Anmai Mus (Melina Hagberg) who is taken in by Kahlen. After hard work, the first crop comes in of potatoes and it impresses the King so much that he grants him funding and settlers to expand the farm. Schinkel is so angry; he puts a plan in place that puts them all in more danger than they could have imagined.
They have never met a man more determined than Kahlen.
Mikkelsen as Kahlen is just sheer perfection in this role. A quiet man who is quite stubborn and refuses to take no for an answer from just about anyone. Mikkelsen’s portrayal of Kahlen is strong, determined and doesn’t hesitate to protect what he is trying to do and, eventually, all those who help him get there. Personally, I have always enjoyed the characters that Mikkelsen has chosen to play as no two are even remotely alike. Here he shows the resilience and eventually a heart that understands what human beings are capable of, both good and evil.
Bennebjerg as De Shinkel is a greedy, brutal and power-hungry man in a place where no one would ever think to stop him. Living remotely away from the king’s power base, he is free to crush anyone that gets in his way. Living that way for so long, a man like Kahlen sets him immediately on edge and offers him a chance to be even more cruel to everyone around him. Bennebjerg does an exceedingly good job at his role because I certainly didn’t like De Shinkel in the slightest and thought Kahlen showed great restraint.
Collin as Ann Barbara knew of De Shrinkel’s cruelty and experienced it firsthand. It is clear why she ran and quickly made herself indispensable to Kahlen, whether he wanted to admit it or not. Taking charge of his household, Collin’s portrayal of Ann Barbara is strong and is the one person who could reach Kahlen at his peak of stubbornness. She stayed by his side and did what ever it took to keep everyone safe.
Hagberg as Anmai Mus is a young girl who is turned on by almost everyone around her. Protected by Kahlen and Ann Barbara, she grows up to become part of the land and as life grows, so does she.
Other cast include Jacob Lohmann as Trappaud, Olaf Hojgaard as Preisler, Gustav Lindh as Anton Eklund, Magnus Krepper as Hector, Morten Burian as Lauenfeldt, Thomas W. Gabrielsson as Bondo, Soren Malling as Paulli.
Magnolia Pictures is responsible for such releases as SLAY THE DRAGON, JOHN LEWIS: Good Trouble, the crime thriller THE WHISTLERS, documentaries such as THE PIECES I AM and films such as the directorial debut of Italian filmmaker Filippo Meneghetti. For more of what they have to offer please visit www.magpictures.com.
THE PROMISED LAND is based on the book by Ida Jessen entitled The Captain and Ann Barbara. The film’s cinematography is just stunning as it also plays a character in the film. Open, spacious, rugged and eventually forgiving, it lends itself to the story of a man determined to bring about a new life for himself.
What I love about this story is that the dialogue isn’t run-on but instead lets the actors take control of their characters. It is in their actions that I found myself drawn to the story completely. Mikkelsen and Collin are astounding as their lead characters believe there is life to be had from the ground up.
The film premiered at the 80th Venice International Film Festival in August 2023 and an entry for Best International Feature Film as the Danish entry for the 96th Academy Awards. There are nominations all over the spectrum of festival and each win is well deserved.
In the end – he is taking on so much more than the land!