‘A Fortunate Man’ Review NYTimes: A Danish Engineer Strives for Success
Art and Experience: The title “A Fortunate Man” has a double edge, as the movie, whose characters rarely fail to explain their motives and circumstances, never tires of reminding you. The screenwriting, adapted from the Danish author Henrik Pontoppidan’s turn-of-the-20th-century novel “Lucky Per,” hoists subtext so high that it surpasses text. Walk through the room once an hour, and you’ll be good.
Directed at an efficient clip by Bille August (whose plodding “Pelle the Conqueror” won an Oscar for foreign-language film), the movie asks whether it is possible to rise above humble origins or whether birth and character are destiny. Peter Andreas (Esben Smed) spurns his father, a rigid vicar, and leaves his home on the peninsula of Jutland to study engineering in Copenhagen. Per, as he is increasingly called, believes that wind and water can be harnessed for energy — and that whoever controls the energy supply will have money and power.
But to bring his project to fruition, he needs wealth and connections. So he courts Jakobe (Katrine Greis-Rosenthal), the elder daughter of a well-connected family, in a romance initially rooted more in Per’s ambition than his ardor. But their backgrounds clash: She has a high social standing and is Jewish. He is poor and, despite his desire to reject his father, inwardly conflicted about his strict Christian upbringing. He is also too headstrong to bootlick.
The sprawling narrative sometimes gets the best of August. (Is the waitress Per rejects forgotten by him, or just by the movie?) And his habit of over-explaining each new development appears to have removed nuance from a much more textured story. “A Fortunate Man” is a great advertisement for the book.