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Review: Trine Dyrholm reigns in a commanding performance as ‘Margrete: Queen of the North’

Trine Dyrholm in “Margrete — Queen of the North.”
Trine Dyrholm in the movie “Margrete: Queen of the North.”
(Dušan Martinček/Samuel Goldwyn Films)

The Times is committed to reviewing theatrical film releases during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because moviegoing carries risks during this time, we remind readers to follow health and safety guidelines as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health officials.

There’s ample palace intrigue being stirred up in “Margrete: Queen of the North,” a lavish Danish historical drama serving as an effective reminder that “The Crown” didn’t corner the market on royal family secrets.

Inspired by actual events surrounding the reign of Queen Margrete I, the 14th century ruler with a gift for shrewdly strategized diplomacy, the international co-production, directed and co-written by Charlotte Sieling, cloaks its fascinating fact-based material in epic visuals that enhance rather than detract from the maneuvering at hand.

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Margrete (masterfully portrayed by Trine Dyrholm), who reigned from the late 1380s until her death in 1412, was known as a wise and just leader who pulled off what her male counterparts couldn’t — the establishment of a long-lasting peaceful alliance between Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

In a bid to shore up protection of the Nordic Union against threatening German hostility, Margrete has been brokering the marriage between her adopted son, King Erik (Morten Hee Andersen) and Philippa, daughter of English King Henry IV.

But the queen’s gambit is derailed with the arrival of a man (Jakob Oftebro) claiming to be her biological son, Olaf, believed to have died 15 years earlier.

Ultimately the question as to whether the individual is indeed her presumed-dead son or a pretender to the throne nicknamed False Olaf proves less consequential than the damage the public uncertainty has already done to erode Margrete’s once-iron-clad grip over her country in the eyes of the world.

Sieling maintains an equally firm handle on the potent material, but it’s the title performance by Dyrholm that makes it sizzle. A favorite of directors Thomas Vinterberg and Susanne Bier, Dyrholm invests Margrete with the measured stoicism of a Dame Judi Dench and the guarded compassion of a Meryl Streep, to compelling effect.

Throughout, both the character and the film constantly keep one guessing as to whether Margrete’s driving impulse leans more in the direction of the maternal or the Machiavellian.

‘Margrete: Queen of the North’

In English and Danish, French, German, Swedish and Norwegian with English subtitles

Not rated

Running time: 2 hours

Playing: Starts Dec. 17, Laemmle Royal, West Los Angeles; also on VOD


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