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aka - Royal Deceit / Prince Of Jutland
UK / Denmark 2004
Directed by
Gabriel Axel
103 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
0.5 stars

Prince Of Denmark

It is hard to believe that the director of this jaw-droppingly awful film also directed the marvellous Babette’s Feast. How is it possible to deliver such a finally judged, moving film on the one hand and then come up with something so comprehensively clumsy?

Purporting to the historical story (by the medieval author Saxo Grammaticus) that inspired Shakespeare’s Hamlet Prince Of Denmark is more like Monty Python And The Holy Grail without the jokes. From the opening scene of Christian Bale and Tom Wilkinson on horseback supposedly pursing wild pigs the film starts unconvincingly and only gets worse approaching the laughably ham-fisted at times. Casting is appalling and performances are worse. Gabriel Byrne, never at the best of times a good actor, with his barbershop haircut is ludicrous as a smelly feudal royal and whilst Helen Mirren is a much better actor nothing that she can do can save the muddled mess that is this film.

Bale plays "Amled" who witness the murder of his father (Wilkinson) by his uncle (Byrne), who proceeds to bed his widowed mother (Mirren). Amled feigns madness in order to exact his revenge in his own good time. Which takes forever and includes a trip to England where he wipes out a teacup-sized army intending for no apparent reason to take down some Duke friend (Brian Cox adding to the horror) of his uncle.  In fact you’ve got to wonder why everything is so scaled down. Amled’s uncle’s kingdom appears to be a village of about 20 inhabitants. Hardly worth the bother of fratricide.

Was there a script for this film? It rambles along ineptly dragging out the question of whether Amled is mad or not. Why his uncle doesn’t simply kill him or contrawise why he doesn’t kill his uncle is far from apparent. Bale who has gone on to do some awesome work is awful but it matters little in a film that hasn’t a shred of atmosphere or credibility.  There is no point in enumerating the film’s faults for it is a farrago of ineptitude that beggars belief, and for which the gratuitous female nudity can offer only minimal consolation  Bergman who was used to work with limited resources and favoured this period of Nordic history might have got this to work but Axel's offering is so awful that one wonders if he was even on the set or if the cast were just making it up as they went along.

Available from: Umbrella Entertainment




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