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‘Margrete: Queen of the North’ Review: Trine Dyrholm Plays a Game of Thrones in a Lavish, Stately Historical Drama

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The shadow of a certain massively popular fantasy television show looms large over Charlotte Sieling’s “Margrete: Queen of the North,” a glossy period drama that amounts to a what-if expansion on an incident from medieval Scandinavian history. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing — anyone missing their weekly dose of sumptuously recreated George R. R. Martin will have their itch lightly scratched by the courtly power-plays, passageway mutterings and spies-in-the-bedchamber aspects of Sieling’s well-upholstered film, even if dragons and ice zombies are notable by their absence.

However the “Game of Thrones” comparison also has its downside: Where the show excelled in keeping multiple plotlines running concurrently so even the simplest scene felt rife with subcutaneous intrigue, “Margrete” follows one storyline with dedicated, occasionally leaden fidelity, proceeding at a pace that might be appropriate in a 20-hour season of television, but that feels unusually indulgent in a feature film. The slower stretches — like the entire first hour — have a tendency to plod, which gives ample opportunity to feast your eyes on Søren Schwarzberg’s grandly gloomy production design and Manon Rasmussen’s superb, elaborate costuming, but also makes the story rather too easy to disengage from.

It doesn’t help that after a tantalizing glimpse of a body-strewn battlefield that teases a more action-packed narrative than is delivered, the film quickly settles into a more sedate rhythm, establishing the wise statesmanship of Queen Margrete (Trine Dyrholm). Through her adopted son King Erik (Morten Hee Andersen), she rules over the Kalmar Union of Norway, Sweden and Denmark — the creation of which was largely her doing — and is apparently liked and respected by all the various territories’ representatives, even while ancient internecine rivalries bubble not far below the surface. Her most vital ally is Bishop Peder (Søren Malling), who represents the church’s interests, and has committed manpower and resources to the creation of a Union army, which will defend the region from attacks believed to be in the offing by Germany.

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To further stabilize the new Union’s position in Europe, Margrete has negotiated the betrothal of Erik to Philippa, the 13-year-old daughter of the King of England. She arrives at court along with rakish diplomat Bourcier (Paul Blackthorn), who has been sent to negotiate the terms of the marriage. But that very same night, reports run rife through Margrete’s lavish welcome party that a man claiming to be Margrete’s son Oluf, thought to have died some 15 years prior, has suddenly shown up nearby and the Norwegian emissary has already recognized him, and not Erik, as the rightful King. Margete has the man (Jakob Oftebro) summoned and denounces him as a liar in front of the court. He is imprisoned, pending sentencing.

To this point the film has been admiring of Margrete to a slightly stodgy degree. Crusading, brilliant female leaders who never put a foot wrong — a few unsubstantiated rumors about a ruthless past notwithstanding — do not necessarily make the most complex or interesting of protagonists. But finally the film, which is never very comfortable with ambiguity, finds a higher gear, and Dyrholm gets to imbue her portrait of Margrete with some humanizing notes of doubt and uncertainty, when the storyline makes its biggest deviation from accepted history: Margrete has a change of heart and starts to believe the man is, in fact, her long-lost son (most sources suggest that the historical “False Oluf” was quickly and definitively unmasked as an imposter). This brings her into conflict with the callow Erik, who is fearful of being deposed in Oluf’s favor, and ultimately also with half the Union, as each of the nobles is forced to take sides.

Aside from the design departments, the craft MVP here is probably DP Rasmus Videbæk, whose magisterial camerawork makes the candlelit interiors feel as imposing as the sweeping landscapes, to the accompaniment of Jon Ekstrand’s elegant, classical score. But the very magnificence of the whole production, from its smorgasbord of Nordic acting talent to its self-conscious lionization of a remarkable woman wielding immense power within an otherwise suffocatingly male environment, also serves a more contemporary agenda. At one point, Margrete rescues a young woman, Astrid (Agnes Westerlund Rase) and pointedly reminds the pirate who captured her that rape is a hanging offense. It’s a sequence that, along with the portrayal of the dignified Queen, proudly locates a precursor to the region’s modern-day reputation for progressiveness in terms of gender equality and women’s rights, all the way back in the 14th century.

This all gives “Margrete: Queen of the North” just enough historical and political heft to justify the epic scope of the filmmaking, although its real dramatic heart is with a smaller, more modest tale: that of a grieving mother forced to make an impossible judgment of Solomon, which is grave and touching and, ironically, almost entirely fictional.

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Metallica, the Strokes, Foo Fighters to Headline Boston Calling 2022 Festival; Rage Against the Machine Pull Out

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Boston Calling, the  three-day festival scheduled to return to Allston, Mass. Over Memorial Day Weekend, May 27 – 29, 2022, has unveiled its full lineup. One previously announced headliner, Rage Against the Machine, is off the bill, but Metallica and the Strokes join Foo Fighters as headlining acts, and more than 50 artists are slated to perform, including Haim, Rüfüs Du Sol, Weezer, Run the Jewels, Glass Animals, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Avril Lavigne, Modest Mouse and more. Rage, who have pushed back their entire 2022 tour to the summer, and the Foo Fighters were scheduled to headline ...poned 2020 festival; the full 2020 lineup is below.

“We are so thrilled to bring Boston Calling back, and we cannot thank our loyal fans enough for supporting us as we navigated the pandemic. This year’s lineup is particularly special for us,” said Boston Calling c-fgounder/CEO Brian Appel. “It not only signifies a return to the things we love, but it also celebrates some of the world’s most renowned acts, exciting up-and-comers, and Boston’s talented music scene. Knowing how much Boston musicians endured during the pandemic, it was very important to us that Boston Calling 2022 shine a spotlight on local and regional artists more than ever before. We are really looking forward to seeing everyone come together on Memorial Day Weekend.”

The announcement also notes that 18 acts with New England ties will be performing throughout the weekend, including Van Buren Records, Cam Meekins, Born Without Bones, Avenue, Ali McGuirk, Crooked Coast, Aaron and the Lord, Miranda Rae, Coral Moons, Paper Tigers, Dutch Tulips, The Chelsea Curve, Frances Forever, Oompa, Julie Rhodes, Charlotte Sands, Pom Pom Squad and Cliff Notez.

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The 2022 festival will expand its offerings in the VIP and Platinum tiers, with a VIP lounge, enhanced viewing areas within the VIP and Platinum sections, including a new double-decker VIP experience with views of both the Red Stage and Green Stage, and an expanded viewing deck within the Platinum section. Platinum pass holders will also have access to a full specially priced bar featuring premium beer, fine wine and craft cocktails, a daily gifting suite with complimentary products, and a daily complimentary parking pass (3-day passholders only).

A limited number of 3-Day General Admission tickets ($369.99), 3-Day VIP tickets ($999.99), and 3-Day Platinum tickets ($1,999.99) are on sale now at www.bostoncalling.com. A special limited 2-pack of 3-Day GA tickets ($699.99) is also available.

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Courtesy Boston Calling

2022 Boston Calling Lineup:

Foo Fighters

Rüfüs Du Sol

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HAIM

Avril Lavigne

Cheap Trick

Oliver Tree

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The Struts

Paris Jackson

The Backseat Lovers

Grandson

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Paris Texas

Mob Rich

Pom Pom Squad

Born Without Bones

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Avenue

Miranda Rae

The Chelsea Curve

 

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Saturday, May 28, 2022

The Strokes

Run The Jewels

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard

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Black Pumas
EARTHGANG

Orville Peck

KennyHoopla

Sudan Archives

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Celisse
Hinds

Frances Forever

Charlotte Sands

Julie Rhodes

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Van Buren Records

Ali McGuirk

Coral Moons

Dutch Tulips

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Sunday, May 29, 2022

Metallica

Weezer

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Glass Animals

Modest Mouse

Goose
Ripe

Japanese Breakfast

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Cults

Peach Tree Rascals

Horsegirl

Djo

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Cam Meekins

Oompa

Cliff Notez

Crooked Coast

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Aaron and the Lord

Paper Tigers

Boston Calling is produced by Boston Calling Events LLC (BCE), which is owned by Crash Line Productions and Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp. Its 2022 sponsors are Delta Air Lines, Samuel Adams, Miller Lite, Chase, Shopkick, Thomas Tew Rum, Subaru of New England, Tivoli Audio, Jack Daniels, and Happy Valley.

 

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Slamdance Keeps Its Edge With Buzzy Titles and Crypto Tech

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Winter Insect Slamdance

Like its Park City counterpart, the Slamdance Film Festival has pivoted to an all-virtual affair this year, but it will now get underway Jan. 27, one week after Sundance, its proudly DIY spirit intact. The 28th edition of Slamdance boasts 23 premieres — 13 world, six North American and four U.S. debuts — and sections such as Department of Anarchy and Experimental Shorts, along with Blockchain Fairy Tales, a collaborative storytelling experiment.

“On one hand you can say it’s bad and disappointing when we cannot gather in Park City, but we see the good — the opportunity to reenvision what a festival can be, what Slamdance can be,” says Peter Baxter, Slamdance president and co-founder. “Our new Slamdance Channel, which will host the festival this year, fits into the bigger picture of a decentralized media future.”

Buzzy titles include Clay Tatum’s comedy “The Civil Dead” and Kristen Abate and Steven Tanenbaum’s existential drama “Straighten Up and Fly Right,” which is screening in the new Unstoppable Features category. Per usual for the festival, founded in 1995, films in competition are feature-length directorial debuts without U.S. distribution, crafted on budgets of less than $1 million. Festival alumni select the lineup, this year choosing the slate from 8,168 submissions.

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Tatum’s film, which he co-wrote with Whitmer Thomas, involves a misanthropic struggling photographer who just wants to watch TV and eat candy while his wife is out of town. When a desperate old pal resurfaces, his plans are thwarted, with spooky consequences.

“Debuting at Slamdance is just cool. Whit and I view it like this: Our band gets to have our first show in the back of some DIY record store rather than at a high school talent show that’s sponsored by Acura,” Tatum says.

Filmmaker Mark Pellington will premiere “The Severing,” an experimental dance performance created in collaboration with choreographer Nina McNeely and Dutch cinematographer Evelin van Rei.

“I’d been making independent films in Hollywood for 20 years, and traditional narrative film was not the right vessel to share the story of loss I’d experienced and needed to express,” says Pellington, whose credits include the 1999 movie “Arlington Road.” Inspired by Wim Wenders’ “Pina,” Pellington was interested in conveying feelings through “a story of movement and text, rather than plot, capturing emotion and physicality on an experiential, nonlinear, entirely visceral level.”

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The fledgling Unstoppable program, which debuted last year with a focus on short films by or about individuals with visible and non-visible disabilities, has been expanded to include feature films. Selected by members of that community, it’s intended to help eliminate the prejudices that have historically kept people with disabilities from being represented in the industry.

The Blockchain Fairy Tales program, a cutting-edge offering presented by Columbia University’s Digital Storytelling Lab, promises an immersive experience in which participants contribute elements to a broader narrative and can verify their work digitally.

“Blockchain Fairy Tales is exploring shifts in the ownership and authorship of stories,” says Lance Weiler, the lab’s founding director, who says decentralized technologies that run on blockchains can be leveraged to aid “the co-creation, funding and distribution of a story world made and owned by many.”

Additionally, festival alumni Anthony and Joe Russo (“Avengers: Infinity War”) will once again dispense their AGBO Fellowship, which provides a $25,000 cash prize, office space and mentorship from the Russos and their team. Angela Russo-Otstot, president of creative at AGBO, notes that AGBO and Slamdance are both artist-led organizations, which enables them to be allies and partners within the film business.

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Notes Russo-Otstot: “AGBO wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the unique platform and community that Slamdance provided the Russo brothers as they were finding their voice as filmmakers.”

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