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‘The Promised Land’ is a western that follows a retired Danish officer in 1755 : NPR


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NPR’s Scott Simon speaks to Danish filmmaker Nikolaj Arcel about his newest film, “The Promised Land,” a historic drama set within the Jutland peninsula.


The brand new movie “The Promised Land” might have the texture of a Western for a lot of People – lengthy, empty vistas, rocky soil, new arrivals struggling to make a dwelling and a forbidding and infrequently lawless place. But it surely’s a narrative a few Danish officer, Ludvig Kahlen, who retires from service within the German Military, 1755 on a small pension, and will get a royal warrant to attempt to wrench a dwelling out of the meager soil of the Jutland. He encounters small-time thieves, a robber baron, prejudices and love. “The Promised Land” stars Mads Mikkelsen and Amanda Collin and is directed by Nikolaj Arcel, who’s additionally directed American movies, together with “The Darkish Tower.” Mr. Arcel joins us now from Copenhagen. Thanks a lot for being with us.

NIKOLAJ ARCEL: Thanks for having me.

SIMON: I collect the title in Danish, “Bastarden,” interprets to “The Bastard.” That tells us loads about Ludvig Kahlen, would not it?

ARCEL: It does. Though, apparently, in Danish, the bastard solely means illegitimate son or illegitimate youngster. It really does not imply something type of different unfavourable than that.

SIMON: What does it say about Ludvig Kahlen, how he feels when he will get to the Jutland?

ARCEL: , I believe what actually is so fascinating to me about this story is that the primary character is anyone you do not – you do not like him very a lot to start with of the movie. He is – in fact, he is formidable, and he is an entrepreneur. However you – he is not a really good particular person. And I assumed that was a really fascinating – I’ve by no means completed that earlier than. I’ve by no means completed a movie a few type of major character who’s decidedly really unlikable. In fact, then you definately slowly develop to like him, which is the entire level.

SIMON: You get mad at him within the early a part of the movie as a result of he appears to use some individuals who come to work for him, would not he?

ARCEL: And never solely that. He is placing on airs, and he is not very good to anyone. He appears to be, like, somewhat bit stuffed with himself and somewhat bit too pushed in direction of changing into anyone vital.

SIMON: What does he need to be? What does he see himself changing into on this forbidding panorama?

ARCEL: He needs to be a nobleman. That is principally the one factor you will be on the time. In case you’re not – if you happen to’re both a commoner otherwise you’re a royal – which is unimaginable to be as a result of you must be royal of blood, and he is not. However you may type of construct your self as much as be a nobleman if you happen to, for some cause, are extraordinarily fortunate, marry into the Aristocracy or, as an instance, please the king, do one thing that the king notices that he’ll then grant you a noble title for. And, in fact, if you happen to get that title, you get cash. You possibly can stay tax-free. You get staff. You get an property. You get every little thing that the type of, quote, unquote, “immediately’s 1-percenters” would get.

SIMON: And one evening, anyone breaks in to rob Ludvig.


MADS MIKKELSEN: (As Ludvig von Kahlen, non-English language spoken).


MELINA HAGBERG: (As Anmai Mus, non-English language spoken).

SIMON: Seems to be somewhat woman. I believe it is secure to say she alters his coronary heart, would not she?

ARCEL: She does. She does. To start with, she’s a nuisance to him, however she does open a path to his ice-cold coronary heart, which is one thing that was – it felt fairly private to me, not that I’ve an ice-cold coronary heart. However I had youngsters a few years in the past, and it actually modified my perspective on life. And it modifications every little thing for Ludvig to all of the sudden must care for anyone and anyone who loves him unconditionally, which could be very tough for him to grasp to start with.

SIMON: I have to say I didn’t know till seeing this movie concerning the function of the Romani individuals in – can we name it the settling of the Jutland in Denmark?

ARCEL: You possibly can. You possibly can, actually, as a result of it’s a very unknown chapter. And there have been so few. The entire concept of the woman Anmai Mus, who comes into Ludvig’s life, is that she’s one of many solely Romani individuals in the whole Denmark. And so everyone appears upon her as one thing fully alien and overseas. They do not perceive. They suppose the colour of her pores and skin implies that she is aware of witchcraft. In order that’s a part of her story on this movie – is that she’s – I imply, she’s very robust, and he or she actually has a whole lot of joyful moments on this movie, but it surely will need to have been lonely.

SIMON: Inform us concerning the unbelievable ogre who he encounters, I believe it is secure to say (laughter), the villainous De Schinkel, proper? I imply, he appears to do the correct factor, invitations him for dinner. Welcome to the neighborhood.

ARCEL: And in one other story, they might – they could have been capable of be associates. If Ludvig had been extra subservient and simply attempting to please the antagonist, I believe possibly De Schinkel would have taken a liking to him. However the factor is Ludvig is just too cussed, and he needs issues his manner. And De Schinkel would not like that. And, in fact, his large drawback is that he has all the facility. He has all the cash. However no one actually loves him. No one likes him. So he is fully unloved. And that makes him harmful.

SIMON: This movie reunites you with Mads Mikkelsen. What does he deliver to a task?

ARCEL: Every little thing. He is so – in fact, not solely is he a beautiful actor. I believe he is extraordinarily gifted. However he is additionally – he is actually your accomplice. , as a director, what you really need from an actor is anyone who is available in and and companions up with you, not simply on – about his half however takes a sort of co-responsibility for the entire story as a result of that is what your lead actor has to do. And I believe any good lead actor price his salt or her salt would inform you that they do that. So that is what Mads actually does. He’s at all times up for something. He’ll even carry gear if we – if it is a busy day. He is a really grounded particular person. He is a really, very good man to be round.

SIMON: You make movies – direct movies that – additionally in america, as we talked about. What is the distinction between working in American movies and Danish movies?

ARCEL: Nicely, there is a actually profound distinction, which is that in America, particularly if you happen to’re working in – on a studio movie, it is barely your personal movie. It is probably not your imaginative and prescient, your inventive expression. It is about creating one thing that’s meant to make some huge cash, that is meant to succeed in a big viewers or please, you already know, the studio executives, I am positive it is totally different for each director, however in my expertise, that one American movie that I did felt like virtually – I used to be a workman for rent.

SIMON: Does that need to make you’re employed roughly in America?

ARCEL: Much less. (Laughter) I’d say much less as a result of the explanation I make movies is as a result of I really like telling tales. And I’ve to say I desire that there is not 100 individuals who have opinions on the work that I do.

SIMON: Nikolaj Arcel – his new movie, “The Promised Land,” is in theaters now. Thanks a lot for being with us.

ARCEL: Thanks.


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NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This textual content is probably not in its remaining type and could also be up to date or revised sooner or later. Accuracy and availability might range. The authoritative file of NPR’s programming is the audio file.


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