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  • Writer's pictureJose Martinez


Some movies scream silver screen experience. The big studio, tentpole popcorn films are better on the big screen in front of a large audience. But if COVID taught us anything, it’s that other films are just perfect to be viewed in the comfy confines of our home. They’re intimate and inviting and play better in solitude.


Denmark’s The Promised Land is such a film.


Beautifully shot, it does scream big screen but the story, dramatic and harrowing in parts, really shines in the intimacy of the private filmgoing experience. The Promised Land tells the story of Ludvig Kahlen (played perfectly by Mads Mikkelsen) who pursued his lifelong dream to make the untamable heath frontier in order to bring him wealth and honor.

Set in 18th century Denmark, Captain Ludvig Kahlen is a proud, ambitious, but impoverished war hero who sets out to tame a vast, uninhabitable land on which seemingly nothing can grow. He seeks to start farming crops, build a colony in the name of the King, and gain a noble title for himself. This beautiful but forbidding area also happens to be under the rule of the merciless Frederik De Schinkel, a preening nobleman who realizes the threat Kahlen represents to his power. Struggling against the elements and local brigands, Kahlen is joined by a couple who have fled the clutches of the rapacious De Schinkel. As this group of misfits begins to build a small community in this inhospitable place, De Schinkel swears vengeance, and the confrontation between him and Kahlen promises to be as violent and intense as these two men.


An epic historical drama directed by Nikolaj Arcel from a screenplay by Arcel and Anders Thomas Jensen, the film took several honors at the European Film Awards, including Best European Actor for Mads Mikkelsen, as well as Best European Cinematographer and Best European Costume Designer.


With a running time of 127 minutes, the film takes its time to build a powerful story with characters we actually care about. There’s no rushing here, as gradually characters are introduced and allowed to build to real, dynamic and engaging people, except for perhaps the villainous Frederik De Schinkel who is almost cartoonish but so evil that he’s despicable from the get-go, which really works in this case.

The film is based on Ida Jessen’s best-selling novel The Captain and Ann Barbara. And there really was a real-life Ludvig Kahlen but it seems history has been highly fictioinalized to tell a gripping and haunting story that allows Mikkelsen to shine with his standout performance.


The Promised Land is available now on digital platform.



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