SPOTLIGHT: Danish historical drama ‘Margrete: Queen of the North’

One of the many big movies that we caught at Reykjavik International Film Festival was Denmark’s Margrete – Queen of the North (Margrete den Første). If there is one way to describe this incredible piece of Nordic cinema, it’s that it introduces to you perhaps a brand new form of noir, ‘Medieval Noir’, and the film is now available in the UK on VOD!

The Film

Imagine some of your favourite actors from the Nordic regions all appearing together in a historical period piece that then becomes a feature film. Well, Charlotte Sieling’s Margrete – Queen of the North is exactly that and we believe that most Nordic Noir-loving fans are going to absolutely adore this fascinating drama.

When we say stars, we are talking Magnus Krepper, Morten Hee Andersen, Soren Malling, Jakob Oftebro, Thomas W Gabrielsson, Simon J Berger, all reporting to duty to the Queen of the North played by Trine Dyrhold (well who else could you cast)! There is even room for a few cameos from Icelandic stars Halldora Gerihardsdottir and Tinna Hfransdottir. It is a bit of a dream cast really!

Interview With Director Charlotte Sieling

Alex at Nordic Watchlist got to speak to director Charlotte Sieling about the film and bringing the story to life:

NW: We want to talk about the cast in your movie – it is such an impressive list of Scandinavian actors and actresses – what did it feel like to get to work with them all (in some cases working with them again)?

CS: Being able to ask these people to be in your movie is a privilege and to place Trine Dyrholm in the middle of them is an even bigger one.

Since all of them are able to play leading roles you get a powerful group of people. And on top of this, once they all work hard to tell your story so it becomes our story you are close to a perfect situation as a filmmaker … then working with great actors more than once is also a special privilege.

NW: How much fun was it to bring this historical drama to life and what were some of the challenges that you encountered in making it?

CS: Putting on costumes like the ones Manon has designed is a challenge today. And finding the official royal behavior physically and emotionally was a great challenge. I had a strong sense of when the actors were true and when the use of the costume or the lines was not totally in place.

So we worked a lot on that… of course, everything on a big movie like this is a challenge…there are every day so many choices of all kinds you have to make… and then finding relevance for today in every scene you make and a truth to this complicated mystery was also a big focus.

NW: With this being based on a true story how did you tackle ensuring you brought as much of the truth to life and how important was it to tell share this fascinating story?

CS: A good question because this was very important for us all the way throughout our long journey with Margrete. We have made research so we knew all about what happened or at least all we could read about what happened, then we needed to create all the missing links.

Never cheat on the historical level or at least only a bit, like for example, the little Margrete would never have been on the battlefield or the little Phillipa never came to Klamar before her wedding … small adjustments to make the plot work.

And to your question about the importance of showing Margrete to my audience in 2021: it has become a very important movie for me to make – a woman who made peace for 126 years in a time where peace was not an option!

Interview With Creator of the Musical Score

Along with the director, Alex also got to speak with the man behind the fantastic musical score – Jon Ekstrand.

NW: You have worked on some fantastic productions including Easy Money, Queen of Hearts, and Life – how did you go into tackling the compositions for Margrete: Queen of the North as your first-period piece?

JE: The director Charlotte Sieling gave me a lot of artistic freedom which always makes it easier to start writing a score.

My initial approach for the Margrete score was to stay away from brass and synths as much as possible but still make it a modern-sounding score and not to fall into the medieval score cliches. And most importantly to keep it very intimate when we were with Margrete and let score tell us her internal conflicts.

The atmosphere created by your score builds and builds with the tension in the film – what instruments did you focus on to help build that potential impending doom?

The main instrument that I used for Margrete was the Swedish folk music instrument the key harp, which is a new instrument to me that I totally fell in love with during this project.

My initial thought was to bring in a professional key harp player but my really bad playing actually gave something to the tone and I decided to try to play everything myself. We knew also from the get-go that we wanted a big string section and choir for the more epic parts of the score.

Who did you cite as some of your inspirations into going to making this score?

I have to say that my main inspiration for the score was the key harp, it gave me so many ideas and colors that it was a gift that never stopped giving. 

Feature by Alex Minnis

Film images courtesy of REinvent

Margrete – Queen of the North is now available in the UK on VOD through Signature Entertainment!

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