By Bryan K Mount
The film “A Fortunate Man” is about the story of Peter Andreas (Esben Smed), an engineer student in Copenhagen, who comes from a poor Danish Christian family that detest technology and city lifestyles. The story takes place in the late 19th century. The young engineer is highly driven to design a hydroelectric and windmill system of his own design to power society. The young engineer is skilled, but his unwillingness to be humble hinders his journey. He refuses to grovel to the ministerial government in order to get his plans approved. The film begs to question if it is possible to rise above one’s station, or if the poor are destined to be poor.
The screenwriting is based on Danish author Henrik Pontoppidan’s turn-of-the-20th-century novel “Lucky Per.” The film can be seen on Netflix.
To bring his project to fruition, he needs wealth and connections. He soon meets a prominent Jewish family that is looking to invest in young engineer’s projects. Ivan and his father Phillip Salomon from a wealthy Jewish banking family, find promise in the young man’s skills, and are intrigued by his grand vision of harnessing electricity from nature instead of coal.
Throughout the film he is referred to as a “fortunate man” by high society, as well as commoners. This makes him angry and uncomfortable because he is trying to earn his position with merit but is also willing to accept funding from the banking family.
Andreas takes interest in the daughter of the Salomon family, Jakobe. This creates social and cultural tensions between the young man and his investors who don’t fully trust him. It’s not clear throughout the film if he has a real interest in Jakobe, or if he is willing to take any avenue to accomplish his engineering vision, although they do have a connection.
He feels that he doesn’t belong to either world, humble society or the intellectual society. His life in its self, is a contradiction, making it difficult for the viewer to truly understand his intensions. His actions appear to be somewhere between a swindler and a genius. Naivety of how the world works is a major factor; nevertheless, he seems to live in the gray area of both societies.
His success makes it impossible to resolve issues with his family, and his pride prevents him from fully achieving his goal. His mother and father pass before he had time to resolve the past, which has a tremendous effect on his psyche. Peter returns home and marries a Vicar's daughter, Inger. They have three children. He attends church weekly but is never fulfilled. He has become his father. He isolates himself from his wife and children.
Jakobe, heartbroken, turns her attention to helping less fortunate children. She takes what would have been her inheritance and starts a charity school for the abandoned and orphaned children in Copenhagen.
Even at the end of his life, Andreas feels misunderstood and isolated from society. Jakobe, whom understood him best, visits him, only to conclude that neither one fully understands each other. This is unfortunate, but reality. The theme of being a fortunate man is challenged by the constant harshness and realities of life.
The film is well done, and presents interesting topics, which are rarely explored in this degree and depth. It is worth the watch. Viewers will have a variety of reactions to the overwhelming social and economic tones that the film focuses on.