Political Film Review #640


Directed by Charlotte Sieling, Margrete: Queen of the North, is a biopic of the one who brought peace to Scandinavia in the fifteenth century. As queen of Denmark, she married the king of Norway, but became regent of both countries when both kings died. She then assisted Swedish rebels to overthrow their country’s king. Thereby she obtained support for the Treaty of Kalmar, a political union of Scandinavia in 1397, whereupon the royal court consisted of the kings of three sovereign states–Denmark, Norway, and Sweden (which then controlled most of what now is Finland). In order to ensure that there would be a king, she adopted grand-nephew Erik of Pomerania (now part of Poland) at a very young age. The purpose of the union was to stop wars between the three countries, usher in an unparalleled era of prosperity thereby, and to deter military ambitions of the German Hanseatic League.

After an initial battle in which Margrete’s son Olaf presumably dies in 1389, the scene quickly shifts to 1402. Erik (played by Morten Hee Andersen) is now 21, old enough the marry, and Queen Margrete (Trine Dyrholm) has the goal of making an alliance with England by having him marry Princess Philippa, the 12-year-old daughter of Henry IV, in order to deter the Germans from invading Scandinavia. But someone strangely emerges claiming to be Margrete’s long lost son Olaf (Jakob Oftebro). Olaf asserts that he is the king of Norway and thus seeks to unseat Erik. After Olaf is jailed, he persuades Margrete that he is indeed her son, throwing into confusion whether Erik will continue as king. Court intrigue then plays out in an almost Shakespearian manner, including a search for information from the person who brought Olaf to court.

A flaw in the story is that Olaf is not asked forensic questions about the past that would determine whether he is indeed her son or instead is part of a German plot. Indeed, titles at the end indicate that Olaf’s origin and role remain a mystery even in the present. Titles also clarify that Erik did indeed marry Philippa. Margrete died in 1412. And the Kalmar Union ended when Sweden withdrew in 1537, though Denmark and Norway remained aligned until 1814, when Sweden took control of Norway. Norway’s independence from Sweden came in 1905.

The Political Film Society has nominated Margrete: Queen of the North for two awards. One is for best film exposé by raising consciousness of the fascinating history. The second is for promoting peace. MH

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