'The Promised Land' is about the poor soldier Ludvig Kahlen (Mads Mikkelsen) who, in 1755, arrives at the barren Jutland heath with the aim of cultivating the land to achieve wealth and honor. However, he quickly encounters resistance from the ruthless landowner Frederik De Schinkel (Simon Bennebjerg), who believes that the heath belongs to him.
In the interview, which can be seen above, Nikolaj Arcel talks about his love for the 18th century, which also was the historical basis for his previous Danish film, 'A Royal Affair, and how this period in 'The Promised Land' serves as the backdrop for a modern human condition for the main character:
"Kahlen has so many ambitions and detailed plans for how his life should shape up that it's hard for him to understand when things don't go as he wants them to. And I think we all can recognize that. [...] The opponent in the film, De Schinkel, on the other hand, keeps saying, 'You can't control a damn thing; life is chaos,' and in this case, we had quite a lot of fun realizing that the villain is actually right."
Arcel also talks about drawing inspiration from films like 'There Will Be Blood' and 'Lawrence of Arabia', how the role of Ludvig Kahlen was specifically written with Mads Mikkelsen in mind; and his script collaboration with Anders Thomas Jensen. He also reveals that this may result in a third film that could complete a trilogy of historical dramas.
'The Promised Land' will premiere in the main competition at the Venice Film Festival, running from August 30 to September 9. It has subsequently been selected for Telluride, Toronto and San Sebastian.
Director Nikolaj Arcel has written the script in collaboration with Anders Thomas Jensen and Louise Vesth has produced for Zentropa with support from the Danish Film Institute.