Nominee Golden Lion 2023 Venice Film Festival
In 1755 the impoverished Captain Ludvig Kahlen sets out to conquer the uninhabitable Danish heath with a seemingly impossible goal – to build a colony in the name of the King. In exchange, he’ll receive a desperately desired Royal name for himself. But the sole ruler of the area, the merciless Frederik de Schinkel, arrogantly believes this land belongs to him. When de Schinkel learns that the maid Ann Barbara and her husband have escaped for refuge with Kahlen, the privileged and spiteful ruler swears revenge, doing everything in his power to drive the captain away.
Mads Mikkelsen is at his staunch, heroic, conflicted and deeply flawed best as Captain Kahlen in this tale of a proud and uncompromising man, and the woman who becomes his ally in the fight against evil, death and the conquest of a harsh land. This gripping, at times savage story, told with a sense of sweep and swagger that evokes a classic western. is a profound character study on how dreams and ambitions can become dangerous obsessions.
For all the strengths that make Nikolaj Arcel’s sixth feature such a richly satisfying historical drama, the most compelling may be the least surprising. That’s the old-school screen charisma that Mads Mikkelsen exudes in great abundance as a man whose taciturn nature and rugged fortitude are tested by nearly every conceivable hardship that can be dished out.