The Promised Land AKA Bastarden 2023 Movie Scene Mads Mikkelsen as Ludvig Kahlen eating oatmeal in front of his house in the Danish Jutland

The Promised Land AKA Basterden [2023]

Helvede, we’ve got another one boss! Another solid-looking Danish movie! And this one is starring Mads Mikkelsen, so you know it’s going to be a good one. The Promised Land AKA Basterden is definitely a movie worth watching. Dark, atmospheric, and slow-burning, this is a neo-noir western following Ludvig Kahlen, a former soldier trying to cultivate an arid part of Denmark. With iron military discipline and determination, Ludvig will soon clash with the ruthless landbaron Frederik de Schinkel. And things will escalate from there. I’m struggling to put into words just how gloomy but also authentically realistic this movie is.

The life was just so damn difficult for almost everyone back then that you’ll actually feel happy you’re living in modern times. And that you’re actually able to watch this movie, think about it, and come away with these conclusions. It reminded me of another great but equally bleak movie, Irish Black ’47. Although perhaps, 2014’s The Salvation, also starring Mads Mikkelsen would be a more appropriate comparison. The Promised Land AKA Basterden is a movie based on the novel The Captain and Ann Barbara by Ida Jessen. And that novel is loosely based on actual events. Most of the characters we’re going to meet are real historical figures, including Kahlen and Schinkel

And Kahlen really did try to make something of that damned heath. However, the rest of the story is either embellished or simply did not happen at all. And let me tell you something right away: I’m not a stickler for “actual events”. I think that filmmakers should take certain liberties and make the movies they want to make. After all, who knows what really happened? As they say, history is written by victors. Or, in this case, by powerful people. What I have no doubt was authentic were the living conditions and the general vibe of the 18th century Denmark. A vibe that’s not much different from the American Wild West during that time period.

You have to battle not just the elements but also people in positions of power. With nothing and no one to keep them from doing whatever the fuck they want, they were veritable monsters. So, a good old Western good versus evil battle is about to commence. There are also bandits hiding in the surrounding forests and wild animals ravaging the farms. We shouldn’t forget about them. Right from the opening scene, The Promised Land immerses you into this old world. And it will make a prisoner of that world for the next two hours. Two hours that are simply going to fly by. The thing I liked the most about the movie was the immersive atmosphere. I don’t want to bore you with the details as this is something you’ll just feel.

Each scene is carefully constructed and executed. And it visually looks impressive. After all, this is a period drama. Nikolaj Arcel contrasts the vast and inhospitable heath with the opulence and excess of the land barons. You would expect to find our protagonist, Kahlen, somewhere in the middle but he’s actually in the heath, eating oatmeal. There’s something we have in common after more than two centuries. The biggest difference is the silence, sometimes interrupted by howling winds. The Promised Land AKA Bastarden follows a relatively familiar Western structure.

This means that the story is somewhat predictable and rather simplistic. The same goes for the character development. However, all of this is covered up nicely by all of the other aspects of the movie that were excellent. The cast did a phenomenal job, led by Mads who gave another great performance. Simon Bennebjerg did wonders with his rather one-dimensional land Baron Schinkel and gave us one hell of a villain. Melina Hagberg, who plays Anmai Mus, and Amanda Collin, who plays Ann Barbara, were just as good.

Director: Nikolaj Arcel

Writers: Nikolaj Arcel, Anders Thomas Jensen, Ida Jessen

Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Amanda Collin, Simon Bennebjerg, Melina Hagberg, Kristine Kujath Thorp

Fun Facts: The budget for the movie was just under $9 million showcasing that you can make a “big movie” for a significantly less money than in Hollywood.


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