The film will get a suitably royal national Copenhagen premiere in September, but what better location for its world premiere than the main programme at the Norwegian International Film Festival in Haugesund? Director Charlotte Sieling may well be right about a higher spirit hovering over the whole project.
Cineuropa: A sovereign ruler from the dark ages, a Scandinavian, a queen. How did you get involved with Margrete in the first place?
Charlotte Sieling: It’s been a ten-year journey. It started when my long-time producer Lars Bredo Rahbek and I realised that no one has really told this story on film yet, one of the greatest power plays in Northern Europe ever, that ended not in war but in a peace that started in 1397 and lasted for 126 years. That was the wakeup call. We brought in Birgitte Skov as second producer and started to do research, during which we found this story about “False Olof”, the man who claimed to be Margrete’s dead son. From there we built the story, based on reality as we got to know it and with added fictional elements that we felt worked within the context. By the way, don’t mention the ending when you write about our film, ever. It should be treated as a crime mystery, “The Mystery of False Olof.”
Unlike, for example, Game of Thrones, this story has very real and accurate historical locations. How does one go about in getting this part as right as possible, some six centuries later?
One gets hold of a production designer like Søren Schwartzberg and a cinematographer like Rasmus Videbæk. Then one starts to draw every location, then build every interior that you see, except for two Czech castles where we used a staircase and some other small things. Historians have observed and approved. At the same time, we want this to be a modern film. It’s been a fantastic process.
The ensemble consists of a Northern who-is-who, where Trine Dyrholm is given the top honour, and also the responsibility, to hold things together. Was she in your mind early on?
I had many things on my mind. Until Trine one day looked into my eyes at some little gathering… I didn’t know her that well before, but we ran into each other now and then and had good chats. And one day, I just knew it was Trine. It sounds spaced out, but I sometimes feel Margrete’s spirit hovering over this project, the way things turned out, the people who came on board, the way we got some important things done before the pandemic outbreak, including the financing. It’s like her hand’s been held over us.
What has your own opinion on monarchy been through the years? Denmark still has kings and queens, and the current one is even named Margrete, as it happens.
I’ve never taken a stand. As a kid I loved the fairy tale element. As an adult I’ve thought about the usefulness of a monarchy in a modern age, if any. But on New Year’s Eve, when the queen reads her annual speech, I am moved. That Margrete I was a uniting force is beyond doubt, but our Margrete II is also someone we can gather around, an important part of our collective identity as Danes and something that tells us who we are.
The Danish premiere will be held in September. Will any royal family attend, by any chance?
Indeed they will. Additionally, this is the first real gala premiere since before Covid. It’s huge. The queen will sit with me and Trine. She rarely, if ever, attends film premieres. This time she will.
Still, you have chosen Haugesund for the world premiere. Was there a reason for this?
Because this thoroughly Scandinavian story needs a thoroughly Scandinavian place of unveiling. When we were offered this opportunity, I just said yes, that’s it! I felt such a rush when we flew in over Haugesund. This is the very territory where it all started, our story, all those centuries ago.