Margrete: Queen of the North – Film Review

It is 1402 and ‘Margrete Queen of the North’ (Trine Dyrholm) has achieved the impossible.

Avoiding bloodshed, she, with the assistance of Bishop Peder Jensen Lodehat (Søren Malling), has negotiated the Kalmar Union between Denmark, Sweden and Norway. She rules these lands through her adopted son, King Erik (Morten Hee Anderson). Still an impulsive young man, Margrete keeps him in check and is on the verge of forming further alliance with England through his marriage. This pact would ensure her people will remain safe from their German enemies for generations to come. As such, negotiations for the marriage between Erik and the child princess Phillipa (Diana Martinová) are of utmost importance. 

Things go perfectly until the shock appearance of a man claiming to be Olaf, Margrete‘s presumed dead son and true King of Denmark and Norway. News and gossip quickly spread and soon not only is the alliance with England at risk but the Kalmar Union itself. Margrete is certain this must be a conspiracy to disrupt alliances and dethrone Erik. What she is not sure of however, is whether this man in front of her is truly an imposter or her son back from the dead.

While this film purports to be based on a true story, I generally have little faith in movies which claim so. I was surprised to learn how much of this film is based on one of Norway’s oldest mysteries. It bends facts as history books tell them, but it does so in such an enthralling way. Indeed, this is the single largest Danish language film ever made and the cynic in me couldn’t help but be engrossed by it.

I shudder to say the story of royal political drama, backstabbing and conspiracy reminded me of Game of Thrones. Considering the historical basis, it feels wrong to compare them, but I’m at a loss of otherwise describing how fascinating the film is. This is only the second feature of director Charlotte Sieling but her years of work in TV on both sides of the camera have paid off in spades. The script she has written with Jesper Fink and Maya Ilsøe is tight, believable and draws you in from start to finish.

Incredibly well-acted with a brilliant cast of actors, some of whom are only held back by a lack of screen time. There are a few principal characters who feel as if their outro is perhaps laying on the cutting room floor. However, this is my only criticism as far as the film’s characters are concerned. I expected Erik to be a clichéd petulant child king, Anderson gives him such depth and you can’t help but see things from his perspective. This is a boy who was ripped from his life to be installed as a replacement heir and now even this is being stripped from him.

While I doubt that she will be nominated, Dyrholm undoubtedly deserves an Oscar for this film. Every time I see her in a movie, she is completely different, and this is no exception. As this queen is put under immense pressure with her empire and perhaps son’s life at stake, few actresses could have pulled it off so believably.

On the subject of believability, the costume design by Manon Rasmussen and the production design by Søren Schwartzberg aide greatly. It almost goes without saying that costume design in a film like this is vital. With regal dresses, suits of armour and the like enhancing the entire experience. Schwartzberg‘s work on Margrete: Queen of the North really leaped out at me several times. With little realistic touches throughout that you normally wouldn’t think of, such as a candelabra chandelier absolutely caked in the spent wax from thousands of candles.

But perhaps my favourite part of the entire film would be the cinematography by Rasmus Videbæk. I kept thinking throughout the film “this would be great wallpaper for my desktop”. While the film does lean a little on muted colours, Videbæk has successfully captured the beauty of the Nordic countryside.

Margrete: Queen of the North is truly an amazing film and well worth the effort which has clearly been put into its production. One of the most thrilling historical dramas I have ever seen, and it does so without epic battles or extensive action scenes. I was instead on the edge of my seat, a result due to the film’s magnificent cast and engaging story.

Margrete: Queen of the North is in cinemas from November 24.

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