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There is something pungently powerful about the actor Mads Mikkelsen’s countenance; silent or loquacious he kidnaps viewers’ attention, releasing its hold only after he has maneuvered his intent, frightening and satisfying simultaneously.

Commencing in 1755 Denmark, Captain Ludvig Kahlen (Mikkelsen) receives grudgingly, permission to cultivate the sterile landscape of Jutland heath, in hopes of founding a settlement and a titled position; directed by Nikolja Arcel, the film sears with verisimilitude: breaking inexorable, obdurate ground, aching limbs, blackened hands, painstaking fortitude; above all else Herculean loyalty to the Crown; ironically King Christian VII of Denmark (reigned 1746-1766, was known as the “Mad King”) Germany’s Frederick II reigned; confronted by the miserable malaise of serfdom, its afflictions and the tyranny of Frederick De Schinkel (sleazy, sensationally caddish performance by Simon Bennebjerg); Kahlen defies the norms: employs the unemployable: runaway serfs, Barbara Ann (Amanda Collin) and Johannes (Morten Hee Anderson), Romani, “darkling” orphan Anmai Mus (Melina Hagberg) anyone fearlessly resisting rules of the privileged hierarchy, whose animus includes the slaying of those indentured to their servitude.

“The Promised Land” delivers on a myriad of levels: cinematography strokes the benign hostility emanating from its gorgeous terrain; ineptitude and bigotry by the jejune, hypocritical, bureaucracy; man’s intransigence and utmost control when tested by evil beyond scope; subtle portrayal of women, without rights, as they slowly tackle and best their oppressors. Rising above sentimentality and with gifted grace fulfills its “promise” to fortunate movie goers.



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