The Promised Land Review
The Promised Land (2023) Film Review, a movie directed by Nikolaj Arcel, written by Anders Thomas Jensen, Ida Jessen and Nikolaj Arcel and starring Mads Mikkelsen, Amanda Collin, Gustav Lindh, Melina Hagberg, Kristine Kujath Thorp, Felix Kramer, Soren Malling, Magnus Krepper, Thomas W. Gabrielsson, Jacob Lohmann, Morten Hee Anderson, Simon Bennebjerg, Morten Burian, Martin Feifel, Lisa Risom Olsen, Patricia Slauf and Lasse Steen.
The Promised Land is a terrifically made, intense action/drama about an ambitious Danish man, Captain Ludvig von Kahlen (Mads Mikkelsen), who makes an attempt to successfully use some barren land for good against all the odds. The movie is set in 1755 but that doesn’t make the movie any less powerful to watch. Some domestic audiences may be turned off by having to watch subtitles or by the different time period the film is set in but The Promised Land turns out to be one of the very best films of Mikkelsen’s distinguished career and is superbly crafted (especially from a technical standpoint) from beginning to end.
After von Kahlen retires at the film’s start, he sets his sights on trying to do something different although that may be deemed difficult by those around him. Von Kahlen is trying to accomplish his cultivating goals for the prestige of it more than anything else. The local rich landowner, Frederik De Schinkel (a great Simon Bennebjerg), however, probably doesn’t think von Kahlen stands a chance at success but is willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for the time being.
Von Kahlen encounters a young gypsy girl named Anmai Mus (played to perfection by young actress Melina Hagberg) who associates with some people that von Kahlen wants to enlist to work on the land he is trying to cultivate. When would-be helper/ex-farmer, Johannes (Morten Hee Anderson), is eventually burnt to death by scalding water for going against the wishes of De Schinkel (who, it becomes clear, doesn’t seem intent on supporting von Kahlen in succeeding in his ambitions), von Kahlen is put in a very difficult and dangerous situation for himself and those around him.
In short order, von Kahlen soon befriends Johannes’s widow, Ann Barbara (Amanda Collin in a solid performance) who von Kahlen says he needs in order to help him around the house. Ann Barbara becomes much more to von Kahlen as the plot of the movie progresses and the two form a very believable relationship on screen.
There are two love interests for von Kahlen: Ann Barbara and the woman that De Schinkel plans on trying to marry, Edel Helene (Kristine Kujath Thorp). Von Kahlen seems to be inspired by Edel Helene initially and hopes to fulfill his desire to make something of the land he is occupying. But, the more von Kahlen interacts with Ann Barbara, the closer that pair becomes. The movie has a couple of sex scenes between von Kahlen and Ann Barbara which help develop their bond and their need to be with one another.
When people show up to help von Kahlen with the land, they insist that Anmai Mus be sent on her way for superstitious reasons. She seems to bring back luck with her. The plot thickens as De Schinkel’s evil ways are attempted to be thwarted by von Kahlen but the tables are turned on von Kahlen who ends up fighting for his survival with the help of the two women who care about him: Edel Helene and Ann Barbara.
In this film there is an abundance of action that helps the movie keep a fast-paced structure to it. There are scenes of simple gardening that are also kept suspenseful and intriguing. As von Kahlen and Anmai Mus end up protecting their crops from frost and trying to fight for their survival, this picture is never dull and is masterfully directed by Arcel who gets a career best performance from Mads Mikkelsen as a man caught between his ambitions and fighting for the survival of both himself and the people he comes to care about, namely Anmai Mus and Ann Barbara.
Simon Bennebjerg is perfectly cast as the villain who the audience will despise from beginning to end. When his character tries to have his way with Edel Helene who wants to protect von Kahlen, the events of the film get very interesting and are thus peppered with surprises which will keep viewers captivated and satisfied throughout.
The Promised Land is a very moving film. The bond formed between Anmai Mus and von Kahlen is deep as Mikkelsen’s character tries to do what he believes is just although, at times, he must do what he needs to do in order to survive at all costs. The relationship between Ann Barbara and von Kahlen is also touching and fascinating to watch. The last moments of the film are both thought-provoking and emotionally satisfying as von Kahlen makes sacrifices for the greater good.
Almost everything about The Promised Land is top-notch. As directed by Arcel, there’s nothing about the picture that wouldn’t make it accessible to almost any fan of dramatic action movies. This is a film set during a specified time period but, especially because of Mikkelsen’s layered performance, you will care about the characters and want to see them triumph in a time where defiance could certainly lead to one’s demise. This picture is a masterful production that should be seen on the big screen given its scope, amazing score and quite compelling story line.
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