The Promised Land

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In 1755, the impoverished captain Ludvig Kahlen sets out to conquer the harsh, uninhabitable Danish heath with a seemingly impossible goal: to build a colony in the name of the King. In exchange, he’ll receive a desperately desired Royal name for himself. But the sole ruler of the area, the merciless Frederik de Schinkel, arrogantly believes this land belongs to him. When De Schinkel learns that the maid Ann Barbara and her servant husband have escaped for refuge with Kahlen, the privileged and spiteful ruler swears revenge, doing everything in his power to drive the captain away. Kahlen will not be intimidated and engages in an unequal battle—risking not only his life, but also that of the family of outsiders that has formed around him. (Venice International Film Festival)

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Reviews (7)

EvilPhoEniX 

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English An excellent historical drama that grabs you by the balls. Mads Mikkelsen should ditch Hollywood, because there it's one misstep after another for him, but once he's in his native Denmark, it's usually a decent blast, and Bastard excels right out of the gate. The story focuses on Ludvig Kahlen, a man who has worked his way up from gardener to captain, and his dream is to build a colony in the inhospitable surroundings of the moors, with the coveted title of nobility as a reward when he achieves his goal. But he soon makes enemies. Nearby lives Frederik de Schinkel, a ruthless, arrogant lord who believes that this land belongs to him and not to the king, and gives Ludvig a hard time on more than one occasion. The first half is a bit of a getting-to-know-you kind of movie, but thanks to an attractive premise and great actors, the film holds your attention very well. Once the film switches to the second half, some very interesting things start to happen. The atmosphere, cruelty and barbarism of the time is captured very believably. Mikkelsen has to make a lot of tough decisions and overcome a lot of difficult obstacles to achieve his goal. There's one scene reminiscent of Sophie's Choice that decently manages to mine the emotions out of the viewer, and then there's one surprise after another, and a delightful little stealth action sequence. The film is so good that it gets by without battles and that's saying something, especially for for me. 85% ()

NinadeL 

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English It really seems that the Jutland heathland represents something exceptional and inspiring for Ida Jessen, as she can easily situate the story there in the 18th and 20th centuries. The true story of Ludvig von Kalhene (1700-1774), of course, differs greatly from the fictional and subsequent film version, but this certainly doesn't disrupt the viewer's experience. Zentropa (with generous support from Czech craftsmen) released a pleasing film, with Mads Mikkelsen as its main asset, and his fight for survival. It is all wrapped in drama cut from Diana Gabaldon's novels, the villain is very negative, the nobility degenerated, and the common people wear their hearts on their sleeves. A Royal Affair was good, and this is also a very gratifying viewer experience. ()

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Necrotongue 

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English I often find myself searching in vain for the right dose of gloomy and eerie atmosphere combined with tension in thrillers and horror movies. Yet, here I am, feeling like a complete idiot. All it takes is to watch a film about the expansion of Danish agriculture and you'll be looking for a rope and a nice beam in the attic to end all that depression. But hey, wait for those end credits to roll first, because despite its gloomy (or even somber) tone, this film is extremely good. Even though I'm from the country, I don't enjoy digging in the soil (I prefer livestock), but here I found myself enthusiastically watching the captain's battle for a good harvest against the whims of nature and other disasters. How could I not root for the main hero, especially when he was portrayed by Mads Mikkelsen, whose face radiates internal anguish? Plus, he is so convincing he could make me believe he grew a row of melons from carrot seeds. What I found disappointing was the ending which somewhat undermined the experience for me. / Lesson learned: Playing fetch can lead to a lifelong commitment. ()

Marigold 

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English A likable film with a likably unlikable protagonist driven by wounded ambition. The Promised Land blends a serious historical epic with some penny-dreadful twists that ultimately prevent the film from forcefully crowning Kahlen’s fate as an entirely tragic and self-destructive character. The Promised Land comes across as a film in search of itself on the heath. Fortunately, Arcel elevated his directing above that in the slightly TV-like A Royal Affair, Rasmus Videbæk beautifully captures the chiaroscuro and Mads Mikkelsen plays his unapproachable father character with his usual precision. The film wants to throw a powerful jab with its ending, but it winds up choosing a safer route that doesn’t offend, but it doesn’t satisfy either. ()

DaViD´82 

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English Like a spaghetti western from Denmark's bleak moors meets a romance novel while waiting for Godot (here in the form of a sprouting potato plant). A bad guy that is as charismatic and sleazy as life truths facing the main "I can't see the forest for the trees" good guy, who isn't such a guy after all. It's a straightforward, genre film, a bit long-winded around the middle, especially in the first half, nicely uncompromising, well acted and... And that's it. Which is far from little. ()

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