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The Promised Land (2023) - IMDbReview

The Promised Land (Biography, Drama) [Based on Book] (2023)


Director: Nikolaj Arcel

Writer: Nikolaj Arcel, Anders Thomas Jensen, Ida Jessen (Based on Book by)

Stars: Mads Mikkelsen, Simon Bennebjerg, Amanda Collin, Melina Hagberg

Formerly serving in the German Army, a decorated veteran is determined to cultivate lands considered barren by Danish royalty after countless attempts to develop them.

Premiering at the 2023 Venice Film Festival, ‘’The Promised Land’’ has been based on a book by Ida Jessen, which in turn was inspired by a true story. It was filmed around Germany, Sweden and Czechia and produced by Zentropa Entertainments, Nordisk Film & TV Fond, Sveriges Television and TV2 Danmark while distributed by Nordisk Film Distribution.

Having served in the German Army for 25 years, Captain Ludvig Kahlen (Mads Mikkelsen) has travelled back to his native Denmark, living on a meagre pension. In an attempt to be recognised and receive a noble title, he proposes cultivating lands and building a property on the moors in Jutland. Ridiculed and initially denied, the court accepts Kahlen’s plan, fully expecting nothing to ever come of it and actively trying to hinder him at every possible chance.

Within a loosely inspired historical drama, Nikolaj Arcel provides a grim tale pinning the aristocratic Danish courts against the serfs. An embellished version of Ludvig Kahlen’s written life that serves as a sweeping tale of a man denigrated to serfdom with an immoral magistrate vehement to sabotage any success attained.

The Promised Land (2023) - IMDbFallen from grace, an initial decrepit locale paints a grim picture of Kahlen’s life. Although, there’s a glimmer of hope through unwavering persistence. Each turn within this Nordic epic is a twist of the knife in search of purpose in a disharmonious present, which Mikkelsen’s Kahlen finds in the Jutland Moors. From brigands to harsh weather and an overly antagonistic local noble, the theme and unrelenting resistance to these efforts presented by the former army captain depress and delight an audience.

The Promised Land (2023) - Photo Gallery - IMDbThrough vast landscapes, these unhospitable moors are, by nature, a character on their own. Rain, winds and snow each coming with effectively portrayed challenges, as if the turmoil of Bennebjerg’s de Schinkel wasn’t enough. Even the workmen Kahlen hires, while lacking much dialogue or even screentime, serve a clear purpose and are by no means wasted in telling Kahlen’s story, who himself presents as an excellent pioneer and father figure to Hagberg’s Anmai Mus, the runaway child. Near the end, it brings a moment, almost bringing a tear to one’s eye, in the best possible way. Doggedly persistent and assured to create something out of nothing, breaking some eggs along the way. Once achieving great praise since abandoned, this sweeping epic truly is uncommon these days and, in this case, could bring an appeal to foreign film to the masses that are usually too intimidated.

Unwavering in presentation, if seeing any film from 2023 ‘’The Promised Land’’ must be on that list. It is a bleak tale, with darkness and detrimental circumstances slowly giving way to hope. In terms of historical drama, loosely inspired or not, it serves an excellent purpose despite an ending, which I saw as a bit of a downer.


Nothing was promised, yet it was fully delivered.