The Promised Land Review

Reviews Films




Based on the 2020 novel The Captain and Ann Barbara, itself loosely based on historical events, The Promised Land brings the stoic and frequently brutal 1755 Nordic frontier to Aussie cinemas from June 20.

Directed by Nikolaj Arcel with gorgeous cinematography by Rasmus Videbaek, starring a stone cold Mads Mikkelsen (Rogue One) as Ludvig Kahlen and Amanda Collin (Raised by Wolves) as Ann Barbara. The English subtitles add to the harsh majesty of the setting.

The Promised Land follows low born military veteran Kahlen from the slums of Denmark to the isolated barrens of the Jutland moor. His one mission to farm the heath, thought impossible by the aristocracy and royal approval to do so granted via a bureaucratic gamble. Kahlen is stalwart and unwavering in his dedication to achieve his goals. Farm potatoes, attract settlers, gain title, become a noble. Kahlan is met with overwhelming odds against his cause. The twisted jealousy of a rival noble who’ll do anything (including murder) to sabotage Kahlen, roaming highwaymen, resident bandits, dwindling supplies and inhospitable weather.

Along the way Kahlen, willing and unwilling, becomes head of a family of misfits. Servants Johannes Eriksen (Morten Hee Andersen) and Ann Barbara. Tatere gang outcast, little Anmai Mus (debut role for Melina Hagberg) and Gustav Lindh (The Northman) as local priest Anton.

There’s a lot happening in The Promised Land. A stripped back Game of Thrones that centres around Kahlen’s unwavering commitment to pursue shifting goal posts, in the face of circumstances that would see lesser characters walk away. This frequent drama is brought by others as they enter (and leave) his service. Kahlen possesses an unflinching belief in King and the law, while surrounded by antagonists who flaunt the law for their own selfish gain amidst an inhospitable environment. Yet Kahlen never gives up pursuing what he’s owed. Mikkelsen’s eyes and stony features convey Kahlen’s pain as events unfold.

Kahlen’s journey and actions mirror that of what he experienced as a child, servant boy to a noble before joining the army. He treats others the way he came up, while copping all adversity on the chin. Getting up the next day to do it all again. Life is cheap, bought and sold for a few rix-dollars. Eighteenth century Jutland is a world where a goat or cow during winter can have more value than a child. It can be difficult to take in as scenes unfold.

Special mention to young Melina Hagbreg as Anmai Mus. A romani girl treated as a cursed pariah by superstitious locals, due to her dark skin. Her performance is as loveable as it is blunt. Her mannerisms on screen effortlessly prompting giggles while breaking hearts.

The promised land releases in Australian cinemas, June 20. This reviewer gives the film an 8/10, an entertaining period piece if not a little bleak at times, with some genuinely harrowing moments.

Luke is writing short stories, screenplays and film reviews when he's not at the day job or looking after the needs of his family. So one Powerball...