In the early 1400s, Queen Margrete (Trine Dyrholm) ruled, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland. Her more humble subjects include two chambermaids eating at the staff kitchen gossiping about her. She gained and maintained those territories both through birthright and marriage. But the gossip that the new chambermaid, Astrid (Agnes Westerlund Rase), learns from her colleague is about Margrete’s ways. About another method she used to maintain peace in one of the largest kingdoms in medieval Europe. That way, by the way, involved murdering her teenage son and heir Oluf, a move that makes no sense. Maybe these two women should not have gossiped about Margrete because of what happens a day later
That day, a man from Graudenz (Jakob Ofterbro) appears in the queen’s court. This man claims to be the son who survived an assassination attempt. This appearance upends many things Margrete worked hard to build. Charlotte Sieling makes Margrete: Queen of the North about the protoagnist’s later life, and it seems like an interesting choice as opposed to making one about how she built that empire, and there are parts of this where I’m trying to find a silver lining. Viewers can find those, maybe, on the breathtaking shots of the Czech Republic doubling as the Kalmar Union. That second silver lining feels more tenuous as it lands on Astrid.
Astrid, by the way, catches the romantic eye of Margrete’s adopted son and heir Erik (Morten Hee Andersen). Erik’s romance with Astrid also upends Margrete’s plans to marry him off to Princess Philippa (Diana Martinova). Philippa, by the way, is a child. That B-plot makes him more complex that the average heir archetype. But that complexity also swings in the direction of the film not knowing whether or not he’s good or bad. During one act, he’s a hopeless romantic, during another, he’s gaslighting Margrete, making her look crazy in front of everyone. Although, in fairness again, Margrete’s starting to believe that the Graudenz man is really Oluf.
I’ve already written my piece about how this isn’t the right part of the queen’s life to make Magrete about, but as it makes its doomed choice, it tries and fails to juggle both the Graudenz man plot and whatever Erik is doing on the sidelines. Margrete’s friendship with a priest, Peter (Soren Malling), also feels like an afterthought. This movie is also a fascinating case. Specifically, a case of large plot taking place in a stage that feels too small for it. And yes, that’s factoring in the drone shots representing the Kalmar Union, among other considerations. I’m normally a fan of Medieval art and history, but those momentary glimpses of Medieval brutal cool feel exactly like moments.