Margrete: Queen of the North
Woman power woefully underappreciated
Cleopatra. Joan of Arc. England’s Queen Victoria. Many of us know of these storied and powerful woman leaders and their impact on our world’s history.
But I daresay that there are far too few among us who are aware of Margaret I of Denmark.
And we really ought to be.
Margrete, her native Danish name, took the unofficial title of “Queen of the North,” ruling over Denmark, Norway, and Sweden for nearly 25 years at the turn of the 15th century. It was Margrete who published the Treaty of Kalmar on Sept. 25, 1397. This landmark agreement led to the unification of these three Nordic kingdoms into one formidable force, and it lasted for more than 100 years.
The new history biopic snapshot, Margrete: Queen of the North, paints a remarkable picture of this largely unheralded monarch as it revolves around the mysterious legend of what may or may not have happened to her son, the king-to-be, Olaf.
Director and co-screenplay creator Charlotte Sieling is primarily known for her extensive experience in series television, serving at the episodic helm of such mega-popular cable productions as Homeland and The Americans, among several other highly regarded TV titles.
Though not necessarily her forte, Sieling has succeeded in creating a genuine and well-rounded epic with Margrete. Along with the stirring scenes of barbaric conflict and royal castle estates, she adroitly homes in on smaller, more performance intensive moments in her film as well. Never are we overwhelmed by the sweeping spectacular to the minimization of the more intimate and key scenes of superb dramatic acting.
To this point, special recognition simply must shine on Sielings’s title character as brought brilliantly to the screen by Trine Dyrholm. The veteran Danish actor astonishes as the strong, and strong-willed, queen. And though she will not back down to any man in a time when women were scarcely considered even second-class lifeforms, Dyrholm gives us deeply affecting words and gestures of profound wisdom and empathy in her interpretation of Margrete. This is a woman, a soul indomitable, made of, and from, extraordinary courage and self-reliance, certainly. But this is a leader also renowned for her recognition of, and regard for, the individual countries she spearheaded in bringing together, and of the people who inhabited them. Her goal was an end to years of savage bloodshed on Scandinavian soil. Her grand vision was one of peace, cooperation, and prosperity. She was so staggeringly ahead of her time it is difficult for us today to fully understand or appreciate her exceptional degree of forward-thinking and fortitude.
I won’t expand upon the movie’s overarching theme of solving the puzzle of the enigmatic Olaf in Margrete: Queen of the North. Sieling and her crackerjack cast do a marvelous job of exploring and presenting this story element for their audience. I’ll add only that the last line here, delivered by Margrete in a wrenching finale, serves to sum up what her life has always been so fiercely driven by. And ever will be.
That being an existence embodying purpose and dedication born of such massive strength and sacrifice that no one else but she could possibly know.
Margrete: Queen of the North is available on major streaming services.
Enjoy John Smistad’s exclusive interview with the film’s co-writer and director, Charlotee Sieling:
This article originally appeared in the Jan. 7, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.