09th Mar2014

‘Age of Uprising: The Legend of Michael Kohlhaas’ Review

by Paul Metcalf

Stars: Mads Mikkelsen, Mélusine Mayance, Delphine Chuillot, Swann Arlaud, David Kross, Bruno Ganz, Denis Lavant, Roxane Duran | Written by Arnaud des Pallières, Christelle Berthevas | Directed by Arnaud des Pallières


In the 16th Century, in the Cévennes, Michael Kohlhaas (Mads Mikkelsen) is leading a happy life with his family raising horses to sell at the market.  When a corrupt Baron (Swann Arlaud) seizes some of his horses and mistreats them, Kohlhaas attempts to sue the Baron for the damage but due to the Baron’s influence in local government finds his case is ignored.  When his wife travels to plead his case to the royal family she returns fatally injured leading to Kohlhaas forming a rebellion aimed at taking down the Baron and his cohorts and regain the rights he feels he has lost.

When a character like Kohlhaas forms a rebellion you would expect there to be some action, and battles as the government of the country tries to regain control but while there are some scenes that feature fighting, this is strangely subdued and many times viewed from afar.  What I realised though is that Age of Uprising: The Legend of Michael Kohlhaas is not about the battle and an uprising focused on violence, but a very personal view of Kohlhaas himself.  Mads Mikkelsen plays the character as a very closed off man, especially when he loses his wife.  His travels through the countryside hunting down the Baron is a personal “uprising” joined in by peasants and farm workers who have a view of changing the corruption of the country, where in truth for Kohlhaas it is more about personal revenge than making a real change.

Age of Uprising: The Legend of Michael Kohlhaas is quite a bleak film and sometimes does feel as if it’s going at a deadly slow pace.  The pacing is methodical and detached from what we would expect from this type of film, it’s no Braveheart for example.  When The Princess (Roxane Duran) finally makes an appearance to try to bring peace to the situation she has a commanding aura about her, where in fact her actions are very much Machiavellian in style, even in the positives gained from the uprising there are no real winners to the tale and it does feel that nothing is really won in the end it’s all an argument over some horses.

I find it interesting to look at some of the films Mads Mikkelsen stars in outside of Hannibal, and it is fair to say that Age of Uprising: The Legend of Michael Kohlhaas shows how good an actor he is.  He plays the character as a man going through an internal struggle and he fully understands that his actions have led more people to their deaths and fully accepts that.  The actions of Kohlhaas are selfish and fuelled by his loss, and Mikkelsen is able to portray his inner struggle without even having to utter the words, which is lucky because he spends most of the time on screen skulking in the background staring intensely while others fight for his cause.

When you start to watch a film with the title Age of Uprising: The Legend of Michael Kohlhaas you would be forgiven for thinking that an uprising will mean a high level of action, and feature an uprising against a greater power, something like Braveheart perhaps.  What you get though is something different, and this something may actually be a good film but not the one you were expecting.

I won’t say that Age of Uprising: The Legend of Michael Kohlhaas is a bad film because it’s not, it’s beautifully shot and it does carry a message that is easy to understand.  The problem I have is that I know people are going to watch this expecting an action movie, and that is not what you get.  The fact that this is about internal struggle and loss and always takes a step back from allowing you to enjoy the battles that are on the screen will arguably alienate many who watch it.  I think it’s fair to say that this movie will be somewhat of an acquired taste, but one that does show the acting skill of the popular Mads Mikkelsen.

Age of Uprising: The Legend of Michael Kohlhaas is available on DVD from March 10th.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek.com

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