Netflix’s A Fortunate Man (2018) is more than what the title claims. It is the story of a rather unfortunate man.
Directed by Billie August, the film is based on a novel written by Henrik Pontoppidan.
A Fortunate Man opens in Denmark at the turn of the 20th century. As Peter Sidenius (Esben Smed) is accepted into Copenhagen’s university as a gifted engineer, it seems like all the right doors of the future are wide open before him.
However, in the first few minutes of the film, we discover the weight he carries.
The audience discovers the fanatic attitude of his father, an overbearing man with a religious way of life similar to a puritan. His father shapes Sidenius’ childhood and makes him have resentment toward the world.
Sidenius is thrown into the world with very little guidance and financial means and he is forced to make a series of immoral and manipulative decisions to improve his conditions.
This is one of the many virtues of the film as the character is transformed into a real person. One who makes mistakes and questionable decisions in order to withstand the difficulties of life.
Despite Sidenius’ machiavellian side, we see the young man as a genius ahead of his time, with revolutionary ideas unheard of at the time but abundant in ours. We see him hold on to his ideas despite being told otherwise.
Sidenius falls in love with the only person who he felt had the same vision of life as him—Jakobe Salomon (Katrine Greis-Rosenthal). I believe he confused love with something related to a complex his father created in him during his childhood. He loved Salomon because she loved him and nothing else.
The most chilling realization during the film is when we see Sidenius become as authentically similar as his father in the end, devoting himself as a religious person outside of reality and staying angry at the world.
A Fortunate Man dives into the question of how deeply we are all rooted and shaped by our childhood development.