The Promised Land Movie Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

On April 18, cinemas began showing the historical drama “Land of the King,” the plot of which is based on the novel “Captain and Anne Barbara” (2020) by Danish writer Ida Jessen. Last year, the film was nominated for the highest award at the Venice Film Festival, and was also nominated for an Oscar from Denmark, although it did not make it into the final five nominees. In this review, we analyze how the unshakable Mads Mikkelsen looks against the backdrop of complete lawlessness in Denmark during the 18th century and why his character’s farming is so interesting to watch.


a fairly fascinating uncompromising story, in the center of which a classic fundamental conflict unfolds; another wonderful acting performance from Mads Mikkelsen; you are sincerely imbued with the fate of the characters, that is, the movie works on emotional and empathic levels


uncritical length of the narrative; the antagonist doesn’t offer the slightest amount of character complexity, which makes him look a bit cartoonish

“Land of the King” / Bastarden

Genre historical drama
Director Nikolay Arcel
Starring Mads Mikkelsen, Amanda Collin, Simon Bennebjerg, Kristin Kuyat Thorp, Gustav Lind
Premiere cinemas
Year of release 2023
IMDb website

Denmark, 1755. Retired captain Ludwig Kalen, after a quarter of a century of service, appears at the Royal Court with an insane proposal. He asks for permission to develop the barren wastelands of Jutland, because this will make it possible to populate the lands there with colonists, which will be beneficial to everyone, including the king. Officials are surprised and frankly do not believe in the success of the idea, but when they hear that Kalen is ready to finance everything on his own, they dismissively give the go-ahead.

However, obtaining permission from the authorities turned out to be the easiest task for the captain. Arriving at the place, he is forced to enter into a tough confrontation with the local aristocrat and landowner Friedrich Schinkel, who does not at all agree that some pompous stranger with idiotic agricultural ambitions will be in charge of his supposed property.
The production of “Land of the King” was carried out by the Danish director and screenwriter Nikolai Arcel, whose previous work was the long-suffering film adaptation of “The Dark Tower” by Stephen King. But in the screenwriting field, Arcel is doing much better: in his filmography you can see, for example, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” thanks to which Noomi Rapace received worldwide recognition, or the critically acclaimed “Knights of Justice,” where Mads Mikkelsen’s star also shone.

The Dane’s new film is precisely about justice, made according to the patterns of a traditional dramatic plot with a pronounced, even Western, conflict at its center. This means that the story does not involve any surprises or a new look at the genre, which, however, does not prevent it from gradually immersing itself in the intricacies of local intrigue and eliminating any indifference to the cold Scandinavian wastes.

The point is not only in the extraordinary charisma of Mads Mikkelsen, one of the greatest actors of his generation, but in the fact that the authors managed to correctly place black and white on the chessboard. That is, so that the viewer focuses on the main thing and willingly chooses the obvious side when a number of insurmountable obstacles appear on the protagonist’s path.

Here, if the local degenerate landowner does not pester you, then a frost will suddenly strike, threatening the entire harvest (farming on screen has never been so exciting). And when the opportunity finally arises to fight back against blatant class injustice, racist medieval prejudices will emerge out of nowhere.

“Land of the King” is practically devoid of action and does not offer exciting entertainment in the spirit of large-scale historical epics. So if someone was counting on majestic battles, it is better to bypass this film and wait for the second “Gladiator” from Ridley Scott.

Instead, the slow-paced narrative, with a lot of static and little movement, gives all its space to the characters and their interactions. The captain’s steadfastness and determination, perfectly conveyed by Mikkelson, win a sincere response from the audience, which allows one to really feel the fate of the main character and his entourage. In contrast to them is a villain in the person of the cruel and slightly caricatured rich man Schinkel, who evokes only disgust and nothing else. Female characters will also play an important role in the course of events.

Over time, the methods of struggle become more radical, Mikkelsen’s eyes become decisive, and the conflict becomes fundamental, so there is no need to talk about any boredom. Someone’s blood will definitely be shed on land that is barely suitable for farming, and we are not just talking about slaughtered livestock, which will be a salvation in a hungry and merciless winter.

Overall, this is a rather difficult, but no less fascinating movie, where Mads Mikkelsen’s endlessly sad look fits perfectly into the gloomy setting of the endless heather moors. Stubborn determination and dismissive arrogance, compassion and cruelty, in the end, good and evil walk side by side, and with the help of these extremes a strong drama is built about the eternal confrontation.

In such expressive black and white simplicity lies the power of the story, because the inner fan of the audience will categorically demand justice. And when everyone gets what they deserve, they will humbly calm down with a feeling of deep satisfaction.


“Land of the King” will certainly disappoint fans of large-scale historical blockbusters from Hollywood; They don’t even really show the king here. But a film is capable of evoking real emotion, which is sometimes much more valuable than pure pleasure for the viewer’s eye, thirsting for spectacle.

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