The Promised Land


If there’s one thing that’s going to get people in a proper tizz it’s land. Think of all the wars and conflicts, past and present, and at the heart of them all you’ll find a dispute about land, and more to the point, who owns it.

Mads Mikkelsen’s latest is an impressive period drama, that sees him play someone who wants to make the impossible possible in Denmark’s harsh Jutland, based on a true story.

boom reviews The Promised Land
The next person who asks me if i'm glamping is going to get it.

Having reached the rank of Captain for the German army, Ludvig Kahlen (Mikkelsen) is now ready to move on to the next stage of his life in his homeland of Denmark.

He’s not exactly ready for the easy life however, as he proposes to the Danish government that he wants to grow crops in the Jutland moorland, which is notorious for being unfarmable. Due to it being completely bonkers and impossible, they agree.

Kahlen then sets about creating a farm for a specific vegetable, that he is highly secretive about, with a few extra hands, including labourers married couple Ann Barbara (Amanda Collin) and Johannes (Morten Hee Andersen), and a potty-mouthed gypsy girl by the name of Ann-May Mouse (Melina Hagberg).

It all begins fairly well until Frederik de Schinkel (Simon Bennebjerg), a wealthy magistrate who lives in Hald Manor close by, decides that he wants a piece of the action, as he considers the land that Kahlen is using, to be his own.

When Kahlen refuses a deal, Schinkel goes all out to destroy him and his little farm, whatever the cost.

boom reviews The Promised Land
Listen, you either tip for your Deliveroo or ...

Danish director Nikolaj Arcel’s film is a sweeping epic, eerily similar to 1986’s classic Jean de Florette, with land causing such a major dispute.

Mikkelsen plays to type in a sense, as a reserved, quiet individual who isn’t necessarily in touch with his emotions. It’s a role he plays so well, and this is one of his finest portrayals of it.

He plays off of the baddie of the piece superbly, the contemptible Schinkel, played so admirably by young Bennebjerg, who perfectly lives up to the Danish title of the film Bastarden, which of courses translates as bastard.

Much like Jean de Florette, it finds Kahlen as an individual with a plan, which is thwarted at every turn by the despicable Schinkel, heaping more and more misery on Kahlen and his clan.

Beautifully shot, the 18th century moorland, with its stark landscape with only glimpses of life here and there such as the heather that grows there – possibly the only thing that does.

It’s a film about relationships then - all of which lead back to Kahlen – with the land, Schinkel, Ann Barbara and of course king and state. The most affecting however, and heartbreaking, is that with the young Ann-May Mouse; it’s one of those special relationships, that grows out of nowhere, before Mouse ends up stealing all the hearts, as well as the show.

That’s not to say it’s an easy film to watch, as Kahlen’s relentless struggle makes it emotionally draining at the best of times, but it’s one that will no doubt win you over with its heart.

If you can put up with the drama, and there’s a lot of it, The Promised Land is a brooding, striking examination of conflict in the 18th century, and in doing so, unearths a gem of film.

we give this four out of five