Bastarden, original title of The Promised Land, tells the story of Ludwig von Kahlen, bastard son of a member of the Danish aristocracy who becomes a soldier in the 18th century. who began to testify that The Jutland moor became fertile, against the interests of a local landowner who wanted to take over the land.. Mads Mikkelsen plays Von Kahlen, a man obsessed with his agricultural purpose in this feature film directed by Nikolaj Arcel, a European filmmaker who, after more than a decade in Hollywood, decided to return to filming in Denmark.
He has not acted in Denmark for more than a decade. How was the trip home?
It’s very nice. The truth is that I have been back for a long time. I became a father four years ago, now I have a second child, then Covid came, I had to take care of my parents… But it’s true that this film is the first in a long time that I wanted. manufacture in Denmark; It was his time. In addition, the production time is long and it is difficult to make a film. We tried it for about five years.
In Hollywood he filmed blockbusters like ‘The Dark Tower’ (2017). How was your experience?
Working in Hollywood is very stressful, it’s not fun. As a Danish director I know that in Europe a director has control over the film. In the United States, on the other hand, that control does not exist, it is the one who gives the money. I don’t feel comfortable with it. That’s the lesson I learned. I am a European filmmaker and to make the films I want to make I have to stay in Europe. You can make a Marvel movie and I’m sure it will be fun, but it’s not your movie, it’s his.
The movie stars Mads Mikkelsen. Is it easy for a European film to be made with stars like that as an attraction?
Mads Mikkelsen is one of the four or five most important stars in Europe today. We are very lucky that he was able to participate in the film because he is very talented. In Europe, unlike Hollywood, it is not so important, because here we make very good films. For example, Spanish cinema sold in Europe without its stars being recognized. A film with Mads Mikkelsen can be successful, but a good film with him is guaranteed success.
‘The Promised Land’ talks about a story of the founding of Denmark, without hiding the violence that these stories often imply.
It was a very conscious decision. It is a violent film but, on many occasions, it is not something to see, but something to know. We feel violence unseen. It’s true that in the last five films I made the violence was more polished, but in this case I wanted to show that that world is more dangerous than violent.
The violence is there, but it also portrays a kind of dysfunctional family that works really well today.
One of the central themes of the film is family. We are talking about a man who is so ambitious that he is blind to love and family. Mads Mikkelsen plays a man who for most of the film is not very emotional and love comes to him by accident. It’s a timeless story that can also be modern.
Another idea also prevails, that in life you can’t get everything you want. Can that be used in cinema?
Yes. That is the main idea of the movie. You don’t control your life, that’s the thing. There is a Jewish proverb that says that whenever you plan, God laughs at them. We can apply that, not only to cinema and Hollywood, but to life in general: you don’t always get what you want. The sooner you accept it, the happier you will be.
Considering this is a historical drama, was it difficult to find a balance between being historically accurate and being politically correct?
You have to find a balance: you have to be historically correct and, at the same time, not so correct. If we were strictly historical, all the characters would talk bombastically and we would worry the audience. All historical films need to modernize their language as well as their emotions. In this case, what is really important is to show the differences between the social classes of the time.