The Promised Land (‘Bastarden’)

DRAMA; 2hr 7min (Danish with subtitles)

STARRING: Mads Mikkelsen, Amanda Collin, Simon Bennebjerg

Mads man: Mikkelsen

In 1755, after 25 years’ military service, Captain Ludvig von Kahlen (Mikkelsen) is living in a Copenhagen poorhouse for war veterans. So much for gratitude.nWith zilch to offer but his pension and his pride, Ludvig persuades the pompous Royal Court powers-that-be to give him a shot at farming the allegedly unfarmable moorland of Denmark’s Jutland Peninsula, thereby appeasing the king that at least somebody is doing something out there.


Making a go of this would be a ridiculous ask for anyone but Ludvig, with his never-say-die Nordic self-reliance and his excellent fortune of hiring a married couple (Collin and Morten Hee Andersen as Ann Barbara and Johannes Eriksen), on the run from the hell of indentured service, for a paltry two meals a day and no pay.


Four months later the construction of their inaptly named King’s House is coming along a treat, much to the fury of certifiably vile local magistrate, Frederik de Schinkel (Bennebjerg, revelling in every jerk move). The greedy and sadistic de Schinkel — from whom the Eriksens have understandably fled — has vowed to be the spoke in Ludvig’s humble wheel. He’s not about to succeed, ho ho, partly because if he did there’d be no uplifting story for A Royal Affair director Nikolaj Arcel’s adaptation of Ida Jessen’s 2020 novel to tell, and more importantly because Ludvig — who actually did exist and whom Mikkelsen (The Hunt) inhabits with his trademark expressive economy — isn’t a soil tiller to be taken lightly. 


Forged from humble beginnings (hence Arcel and Anders Thomas Jensen’s screenplay’s way catchier Danish title, The Bastard), the Captain is a mule with a barnacled heart. Which isn’t to say that heart doesn’t beat like a drum — for the widowed Ann Barbara, for the gutsy little gypsy girl (Melina Hagberg) who adopts them both, and for the burden of a brutal dream only a true fanatic could withstand.