Margrete: Queen of the North review – piercing portrait of a tormented queen | Movies

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Blending the grand visuals of a sweeping epic with the psychological unease of a chamber piece, Charlotte Sieling’s feature probes the legacy of Denmark’s Queen Margrete, a visionary ruler who brokered the historic Kalmar Union that – for the first time – united Norway, Sweden and Denmark against the threat of a German invasion.

But her reign also saw a bizarre mystery in the Scandinavian region, which forms the emotional beating heart of this stately film. On the eve of the engagement between Margrete’s adopted son Erik (Morten Hee Andersen), and Princess Philippa (Diana Martinová), daughter of England’s Henry IV, news broke that the Queen’s biological son King Olaf (Jakob Oftebro) had returned from the dead. This sudden arrival not only unsettled political coalitions but also sent the usually stoic Margrete into a state of distress. Since she was not at his side when Olaf died, her maternal grief encouraged her to believe that Olaf had survived. On the other hand, her monarchical rationality questioned if he was merely an impostor sent to her doorsteps to disrupt a sought-after alliance with England.

Much of this emotional tug-of-war is played out in atmospherically lit indoor compositions, which evoke a painterly, classical feel. What elevates the film from a run-of-the-mill period drama is Trine Dyrholm’s masterfully understated performance as the tormented queen. Her Margrete has no need to shout and weep to convey her turmoil; a mere gaze is enough to articulate the dilemma of having to put collective needs over personal desires. While the plot is at times overstuffed with palace intrigues, this piercing character study carries a contemporary poignancy, as it encapsulates the difficult choices a female leader has to make in a world bounded by patriarchal control.

Margrete: Queen of the North is released 14 March on digital platforms.



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