“When, in spite of all the good fortune that had come his way, he wasn’t happy, it was because he had not wanted to be happy in the general sense of the word.”
Between 1898 and 1904, a Danish realist writer, Henrik Pontoppidan, published an eight-volume novel, Lykke-Per, which was later translated into English as Lucky Per. Pontoppidan went on to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1917.
Lucky Per is a bildungsroman of sorts in which a bright but angst-ridden son of a devout clergyman rejects his faith and flees his abused childhood in the countryside to the myriad charms of Copenhagen. He pursues his engineering education there and dreams of harnessing the power of wind and water to create a new Denmark.
A Fortunate Man is based on this epic narrative. The film deals with questions of faith and science and how success needn’t be at the cost of one or the other. It examines essential questions like: does success lead to happiness? does one need luck to succeed? can happiness be achieved independent of luck? can one be happy outside the confines of material success? and can one seek redemption in an almost heroic isolation, that being a triumph in itself?
Luminously directed by Bille August, the film beautifully recreates the late 19th and early 20th century Danish countryside and high society and is a sensorial treat. It’s a thought-provoking experience to watch this intense tale, of a gifted engineer battling his demons, unravel.
Lykke-Per, in all, is a poignant story of a ‘fortunate’ man who is disturbed to the core and tormented, his alienation affecting his relationships and his genius; and yet there is something endearing about his belief in his convictions and his uncompromising attitude, for he is a lone star traversing ahead of his time and he knows it!
Where to Watch: Netflix
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