In the second instalment on Margrete: Queen Of The North (Margrete Den Første) Charlotte Sieling and Trine Dyrholm discuss horseback riding, “women peace”, plant metaphors, working on a character, the architecture of the script with Jesper Fink, Princess Philippa, and pirates.
A little girl dips her fingers in a chalice of water. A man washes his hands from the blood of battle. A royal ring passes from him to her. The girl (Nicole Rosney) with the big concerned eyes, dirty face, and crown on her head will become Margrete (Trine Dyrholm), creator of the Kalmar Union, which lasted for 126 years and braided together Denmark, Norway, and Sweden in unprecedented peace.
Trine Dyrholm with Charlotte Sieling on “women peace”: “I find it very interesting because it is very prescient. It talks about female sexuality and there are some more lines in the film that also do that. We still have issues.”
From Copenhagen, Charlotte Sieling and Trine Dyrholm joined me on Zoom for an in-depth conversation on Margrete: Queen of the North.
Anne-Katrin Titze: The story is based on the actual Queen Margrete, the Kalmar Union people know about, but there are obviously parts that are invented. Are these for example Roar, the pirate, and Astrid? Of course there is the mysterious fake Oluf story. Where did fact meet fiction?
Charlotte Sieling: The whole story about Oluf is real, it’s only that the real mystery has never been solved. So we don’t know if it was him or not. Yes, Astrid and Roar are inventions but he is totally taken from another pirate that was helping Margrete in those years, beating the Germans. He is a symbol of one of those guys that actually existed. Astrid also could have existed, not as a person but as an idea. The Swedish councillor is actually not a real person. Because we couldn’t pretend that a real person did this, because he’s the bad guy.
AKT: So you invented him? That’s interesting. I brought up Roar and Astrid because of that very powerful moment concerning rape. Your Margrete says, hey, we are not doing that here and go find someone who wants to be with you. It’s a wonderfully honest scene that speaks of the present and puts it in the past. Can you talk about writing, directing, and the acting in that scene?
The majestic Margrete (Trine Dyrholm) Queen of the North with her falcon
CS: I can maybe start by saying I remember the day that I wrote it actually, because I felt so good when I had set the last lines. It is a very good example of making historical things, because what you do is you research and you find out this woman actually made “women peace” as it’s called. It’s a real story, she made what you’re seeing in the scene. If you rape a woman you will be hanged. If a woman is raped she can come, she doesn’t need proof. She can come to the castle and she can get money for her pain. So there is “women peace!”
AKT: In 1402!!
CS: Yes! Margrete made that! From that line to the next line, my invention starts there.
Trine Dyrholm: I find it very interesting because it is very prescient. It talks about female sexuality and there are some more lines in the film that also do that. We still have issues. We don’t talk so much equally about men’s and women’s sexuality. I find it very interesting here when she says try and find someone who really likes it. It comments of course on what she just saw and then later with the Englishman who tries to invite her to escort her to her room.
AKT: That’s a great scene.
TD: It talks about that I might really want to go. Maybe I want to join you, but I can’t do that because they will look at me with different eyes. In a subtle way it talks about also the issues that she had to live with. Not only because she’s a woman, also because she was the queen and she was in power and she could not afford to go there.
Margrete (Trine Dyrholm) with her adopted son Erik (Morten Hee Andersen): “I started with ‘Hello horse!’ It really took a while for me to really get used to not being afraid.”
We know that she had pirates that helped her. For me it’s interesting to imagine that she could actually talk about things like that with pirates, because she could educate him. She was in the power position to say that to him. I found it very interesting to act these things, because it’s modern but on the other hand you can imagine that she was talking like that.
AKT: Yes, which is so fascinating, that it is the past and the present. That’s what I loved about your film. Also how much, Trine, you can tell with your face. So much of what you just said about William is in your face, it’s not spelled out. I do want to ask you about the physical aspects as well, though, falconry and horseback riding. Was it all you? Did you have a double?
TD: The good thing is, you can always cheat on movies somehow, but still you have to do some of the work. Actually, when Charlotte came with this project and I read the script, I was like, oh my god this is a huge part and an interesting thing, but I’m not ready to say yes, because I’m afraid of horses.
AKT: Oh, no!
TD: Then Charlotte is a horse rider herself in real life, so she was like “Yeah, yeah, whatever.” She said to me that I should start to be friends with a horse. That was actually my way to get into the character. That’s where my imagination started. I started with “Hello horse!” It really took a while for me to really get used to not being afraid. Then I actually sat on the horse, I’m doing a little bit of riding. Of course I’m not doing the wild things.
Erik (Morten Hee Andersen) is confronted by Swedish councillor Johan Sparre (Magnus Krepper) with Peder (Søren Malling)
AKT: You’re not riding by the stormy sea?
TD: No, that’s a stunt. But for me it was a huge step actually to sit on the horse and go up and down.
AKT: It came across as totally believable. I thought it was you on the horse.
TD: Sometimes it’s me on the horse, but not always.
AKT: As far as the dialogue is concerned, I noticed that Erik loves plant metaphors. He talks about dandelion flying and later about being unrooted. It’s so interesting that the character who could be so simplified isn’t. The dialogue adds poetry to this person who thinks he can control everything, who thinks he is smarter and obviously isn’t. Where did all those plant metaphors come from?
CS: I was writing the script together with a younger guy who wrote kind of all the architecture. At a certain moment, when I took over, we felt that Margrete’s character really needed an older person and a female to do something with the character. Jesper [Fink] did write so much, he actually is a feminist and a very talented writer who knows about nuances and layers. He wrote that first line that you mentioned; it was there from the beginning actually. He felt the character needed that poetry.
AKT: Then there is of course the big shock when Princess Philippa shows up for the first time! It is a gasp for audiences and I like how you treat it so matter-of-factly. If you look at the world, you don’t need to go back 600 years. In New York State only four years ago the age you could get married was 14.
Trine Dyrholm: “It was a huge step actually to sit on the horse and go up and down.”
AKT: With parental consent, yes. We think of it as far away and in the long-ago past, but it isn’t.
TD: Also it mirrors Margrete because she was actually married when she was ten.
AKT: Oh wow, I didn’t know that.
TD: That was very special for me when we did the scene. Because I was like, shouldn’t I play something? Like, I remember when I was there? Charlotte was very, no, no, no, she’s just looking at this. This is normal. And I find it very powerful when I see it now. That this is just normal. She was there herself and we don’t have to see it, but we see it. Do you know what I mean?
TD: We see it with the way it’s told. I find it very brutal in a beautiful way actually. That’s why Margrete’s just sitting there, listening to that little girl, oh, can do French, well, she’s good and I did that myself also. We’re not questioning it because that was the time and it made it really interesting for the character, I think.
AKT: And for the audience, because we are reflecting on it.
TD: Yeah, you are reflecting, that’s the important thing.
AKT: Work for us to do, exactly.
Read what Charlotte Sieling and Trine Dyrholm had to say on Manon Rasmussen’s costumes, the hair and makeup by AnnaCarin Lock, the choreography of Niclas Bendixen, the production design by Søren Schwartzberg, and the evening of the Copenhagen World Premiere of Margrete: Queen Of The North attended by Margrete II.