Directed by Nikolay Arcel, who returns to cinema in his comfort zone after the experience of The Black Tower, Bastardin draws on real historical events of the 18th century to dramatize the “crazy” colonization of Jutland. ex-military dreamer with the face of Mads Mikkelsen. An example of a classic film that also looks to the Western at the Venice 80 competition.
This land is my land
If there is a cinematic trend that is numerically absent (at least in regards to the main sections) in the selection of these 80To edition of the Venice Film Festival – Cinema of Northern Europe; this is obviously a desire to simplify at all costs and somehow consider Scandinavian cinema as an independent “genre”. A gap that is at least partially filled by this Bastarden (international name Promised land), a historical epic staged by the same Nikolai Arcel, who, after an unsuccessful experience Black Tower, to return here, to latitudes (and atmospheres) closer to it. The atmosphere is only partly related to the codes of Scandinavian cinema, as we usually imagine it; we say this on the one hand due to the historical affiliation of the story (the film is inspired by the book Captain and Ann Barbara Ida Jessen, based on historical events that took place in the middle of the 18th century), on the other hand, due to the fact that Arcel’s film is actually a kind of violent western epic set on Danish soil. An epic that takes the theme of the confrontation between man and nature from the classic western – with an emphasis on the idea of subordinating the first over the second – and the exaltation of visionary individualism, which is completely the prerogative here. ex-military, interpreted (okay) Mads Mikkelsen.
Promised but fought
The “Promised Land” in its original name is Danish Jutland, barren and apparently impossible to cultivate, where a former soldier of humble origin Ludwig Kalen he decides, against all logic, to build his own colony. The enterprise of this man, approved with some skepticism by the king, will soon encounter the presence in the area of a gang of nomadic robbers and, above all, with the hostility of a wealthy landowner. Frederick de Schinkelwho considers this piece of land his property. When Kalen decides not to obey Schinkel’s demands, the greedy owner wages war on him without mercy, using violence and intimidation of all kinds; To help the former military man will be a local priest, a couple of servants who escaped from the same estate as Schinkel, and a girl who still lived with the nomads, who eventually develops a strange friendship with Kalen. But the far-sighted soldier unexpectedly finds Shinkel’s cousin on his side, who has fallen in love with him and is tired of the oppression of her rich cousin.
As it was said at the beginning, Bastarden this is, first of all, a historical epic, addressed to classical cinema, in particular to the western and a kind of “frontier”, whose epic and, above all (pardon the pun) ethics, are being revived. Mikkelsen’s Kalen has that forward-thinking individualism, steeped in a rudimentary sense of justice, that has so much influenced the American pioneer narrative; individualism, which is here perfectly combined with a “hero” who challenges himself – and his humble origins – even in front of the natural environment and the human groups that oppose him. The simplicity, but also the archetypal character of the starting point, allows Arcel to create a solid narrative structure that obviously relies heavily on scenographic visualization of landscapes – and the change of seasons in this sense has narrative weight and clear functionality in the plot – and a visual system in which noticeable desire to create auteur cinema, especially popular. The same choice of soundtrack, expressive but almost never intrusive, and the first movement, in which the protagonist and the environment are always the narrative engine (with the camera almost never leaving both behind the scenes), emphasize the breath of classic cinema. with a strong Hollywood background that the director wanted to give to the film.
Epic and historical portrait
The heroic image (albeit problematic) that the script gives to the character played by Mikkelsen (who is not denied shaded areas and a tendency to compromise) is contrasted in a simple but effective dialectic with a sadistic landowner with a face Simon Bennebjerg, rejected and harshly characterized as a villain since his first on-screen appearance. Perhaps it’s the somewhat one-dimensional nature of Schinkel’s character that, on the one hand, contributes to the basic emotional involvement that the film wants to evoke, on the other hand, it limits, at least in part, the complexity of the historical/political reconstruction. was forced to take the path of simplification, opposing military individualism and the cruel depravity typical of the aristocracy. To counterbalance this limitation, at least in part (actually it’s more of a storytelling and a choice of register), there is still a good complexity of the protagonist’s character and, above all, his evolution over the course of two action-packed hours of the film, which also goes through problematic moments and choices. doubtful. As a result, one gets the impression that the stakes of structure and directorial references somewhat limited the reliability of the historical portrait and, perhaps, some aspects (see relations with the robbers and their consequences) could find further study: but still, even so, Bastarden it remains an essay of epic cinema capable of satisfying the eyes and the brain, in which aesthetic care and storytelling go hand in hand towards quality entertainment.
Original name: Bastarden
Director: Nikolai Arcel
Country/year: Norway, Sweden, Denmark / 2023
Duration: 120 minutes
Type: Drama, History, Biography
Throw: Mads Mikkelsen, Gustav Lind, Jacob Lohmann, Kristin Kouyat Thorp, Amanda Collin, Arved Fries, Felix Kramer, Hagberg Melina, Lise Reesom Olsen, Magnus Krepper, Martin Feifel, Morten Hi Andersen, Patricia Slauf, Simon Bennebjerg, Soren Malling, Thomas W .Gabrielsson
Screenplay: Nicholas Arcel, Anders Thomas Jensen
Photo: Rasmus Videbeck
Assembly: Olivier Bugge Cutt
Music: Dan Romer
Director: Louise West, Lisette Djonjic, Fabian Gasmia
Production house: Nordisk Film & TV-Fond, Sveriges Television (SVT), TV2 Danmark, Zentropa International Sweden, Zentropa Entertainments, Zentropa
Distribution: Movies inspired by movies
From the same directors or screenwriters