Cinema of Denmark  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Denmark has been producing films since 1897 and since the 1980s has maintained a steady stream of product due largely to funding by the state-supported Danish Film Institute. Historically, Danish films have been noted for their realism, religious and moral themes, sexual frankness and technical innovation.

The Danish filmmaker Carl Th. Dreyer (1889–1968) is considered one of the greatest directors in the history of cinema. Other Danish filmmakers of note include Benjamin Christensen, who outside his native country directed several horror classics including Häxan (1922) and Seven Footprints to Satan (1929); Erik Balling, the creator of the popular Olsen-banden films; Gabriel Axel, an Oscar-winner for Babette's Feast in 1987; and Bille August, the Oscar-, Palme d'Or- and Golden Globe-winner for Pelle the Conqueror in 1988. In the modern era, notable filmmakers in Denmark include Lars von Trier, who co-created the Dogme film movement, and multiple award-winners Susanne Bier and Nicolas Winding Refn.


The golden age

"Despite the small size of its native market and its relatively limited resources, [Denmark] reigned supreme for several years (1909-14) as Europe's most prosperous film center. Its films rivaled those of Hollywood, for popularity on the screens of Paris, London, Berlin and New York."--Efraim Katz

In 1906, cinema owner Ole Olsen founded the first Danish film-making company, Nordisk Films Kompagni. It gained most of its income from the export market of short films. Not until 1909 were other film-producing companies established. In 1910 the number had reached ten. This period is now known as the Golden Age of Danish Cinema. In the spring of 1910, Nordisk Films Kompagni changed its policy of producing only short films and began making feature films. This was largely inspired by the Århus Fotorama company's Den hvide Slavehandel (The White Slave Trade, 1910), which was the first multi-reel Danish film lasting more than 30 minutes.

With the increasing length of films, there was a growing artistic awareness, which is evident in Afgrunden (The Abyss, 1910). This film launched the career of Asta Nielsen, who soon became Europe's first great female film star. The film was an erotic melodrama, which soon became the preferred genre in early Danish Cinema. In 1911, Nordisk Film was the first of the major European companies to devote itself entirely to full-length feature films, which could be sold abroad profitably, as the technical and photographic quality impressed audiences. Yet, when exporting the films, the erotic element of the films needed to be toned down in order not to offend the working class audiences. In 1913, Nordisk released the first full length feature movie, Atlantis. After 1913, Danish cinema began to lose its leading foothold in the film industry, with foreign companies having intensified competition in the production of feature length films. Danish cinema had also begun to suffer from a lack of imagination and a willingness to take creative risks on the part of Danish producers. Independent producer Benjamin Christensen had great success with the spy film Det hemmelighedsfulde X (The Mysterious X or Sealed Orders, 1914) and the crime drama Hævnens Nat (Blind Justice or The Night of Revenge, 1916), both of which are major works in the history of the Danish cinema.

1920s to 1940s

During World War I, the USA became the leading nation in film production and Danish exports decreased. In the years following the war, Dreyer made an appearance as director at Nordisk Film with the drama Præsidenten (The President, 1919), followed by the ambitious Blade af Satans Bog (Leaves from Satan's Book, 1921), inspired by the American director D.W. Griffith's Intolerance (1916) in both technique and theme. However, Dreyer, as well as Benjamin Christensen, were not permanently connected to the influential Danish film industries and remained loners. As a whole, Danish film in the 1920s was on the decline in spite of the filmmakers' better technical skills. Of most interest at this time were perhaps the so-called Dickens movies directed by the very able A. W. Sandberg. At one point Denmark again enjoyed some international reputation - by the many farces of the vagabond duo “Fyrtaarnet og Bivognen” (often known by their French names “Doublepat and Patachon”), who were Scandinavian predecessors of Laurel and Hardy. They were introduced by “Palladium”, the rival of Nordisk Film. Despite these resurgences, at the end of the decade the Danish film industry was on its heels.

In 1929, Nordisk Film Kompagni was established as a sound film company. The Pastor of Vejlby (1931) reinforced the Nordisk's dominance in the Danish market. The 1930s were dominated by many successes with light comedies. The Depression and the economic conditions of the film companies prevented more serious film business, and the victory of the sound movie automatically set greater limits on the international possibilities of Danish film. Many popular stars like Marguerite Viby, Ib Schønberg and Peter Malberg had breakthroughs but in spite of many economic successes no further development of the media was seen.

Between 1940 and 1945, the German occupation of Denmark during World War II provided favourable conditions to start producing more serious art films. Bodil Ipsen with Black Tie (1942) and Melody of Murder (1944) produced a romantic comedy and a psychological thriller of international standard. As a whole, a more sinister tone was expressed in these years, and several parallels to the American film noir (also some years after 1945) can be found. Even the standard of the comedy was lifted, especially by the witty, well-performed and elegant movies directed by the ambitious Johan Jacobsen, a Danish pupil of Ernst Lubitsch. The first years after the war still saw a rising standard, and foremost a more social/realist line was maintained by such directors as the married couple Henning-Jensen and the sharp, critical and almost cynical films by Ole Palsbo. But after some years the pre-war conditions reappeared: sentimental comedies, and uncomplicated regionalist movies.

1950s to 1970s

A large stream of family comedies (so-called "Lystspil") were produced from 1950s to late 1970s/early 1980s. Here a lot of Danish starts were born like Dirch Passer, Ove Sprogøe and director Erik Balling. Films include the Olsen Banden-series (1968-1981), Sommer I Tyrol (1964), Kispus (1956, first Danish film in colour, Støv på hjernen (1961), Passer passer piger (1965) and the classic TV-sitcom Huset På Christianshavn (1970-1977).

In the sixties, Danish cinema became gradually more erotic, with films such as Halløj i himmelsengen (Erik Balling, 1965), Sytten (Annelise Meinecke, 1965), Jeg - en kvinde (Mac Ahlberg, 1965) and Uden en trævl (Annelise Meinecke, 1968), several of which made a huge international impression. As a natural progression, in 1969 Denmark became the first country to completely legalize pornography. In the 1970's, a large percentage of all Danish films were sexually oriented, and many mainstream-features with mainstream-actors included sequences with either softcore- or hardcore-pornography, most notably Mazurka på sengekanten (John Hilbard, 1970) and I Jomfruens tegn (Finn Karlsson, 1973) along with their many respective sequels.

With La' os være (Ernst Johansen & Lasse Nielsen, 1975), producer Steen Herdel launched a wave of successful teenage-dramas, including Måske ku' vi (Morten Arnfred, 1976), Du er ikke alene ("You Are Not Alone") (Ernst Johansen & Lasse Nielsen, 1978), Mig og Charly (Morten Arnfred & Henning Kristiansen, 1978) and Vil du se min smukke navle? (Søren Kragh-Jacobsen, 1978), all produced by Steen Herdel.

A notable TV-series, Matador, ran from 1978-1982<ref name=Matador>IMDb-information</ref>, and has remained a national favourite.


The 1980s

The Danish film industry got a major boost in the late 1980s when the movie Babettes Gæstebud (Babette's Feast), directed by Gabriel Axel, won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 1987, and the movie Pelle Erobreren (Pelle the Conqueror), directed by Bille August won the award the year after.

At about the same time, a number of talented directors started graduating from the Danske Filmskole (Danish School of Film).

Produced in 1986 and released at the beginning of 1987 was the delightful Venner for altid ("Friends Forever", literally "Friends for All Time"), directed by the tragically short-lived Stefan Henszelman (1960-1991) from a script written by himself and Alexander Kørschen. It was rapturously received in New York and San Francisco and received the 1988 Audience Award as Best Feature at the San Francisco International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival. The film was shown successfully at the 2005 Copenhagen Gay and Lesbian Film Festival by its Danish distributor, Nordisk. Henszelman lived to direct one more film, Dagens Donna (1990). Template:Sectstub

The 1990s

Danish film in the 1990s was dominated by Lars von Trier. His films Europa, Breaking the Waves, The Idiots, and Dancer in the Dark received great international attention and were nominated for numerous awards.

The Dogme 95 Collective caught the attention of the international film world with its strict "vows of chastity" or rules for filmmakers that force filmmakers to concentrate on purity of story and the actors' performances rather than special effects and other cinematic devices.

The first Dogme 95 film, The Celebration (Festen), directed by Thomas Vinterberg, received many awards on the international film festival circuit and was named by both the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the New York Film Critics Circle as the best foreign-language film of the year.

The members of the Dogme 95 Collective were von Trier, Vinterberg, Kristian Levring, and Søren Kragh-Jacobsen. Although the Dogme 95 movement originated in Denmark, filmmakers around the world soon experimented with the rigid guidelines and sought certification for their films as Dogme.

Lars von Trier also made history by having his company Zentropa be the world's first mainstream film company to produce hardcore pornographic films. Three of these films, Constance (1998), Pink Prison (1999) and All About Anna (2005), were made primarily for a female audience, and were extremely successful in Europe, with the two first being directly responsible for the March 2006 legalizing of pornography in Norway.

The 21st century

See 21st century

After 2000, Danish cinema continued to garner attention as it produced some of the most innovative and controversial films in the world. Von Trier's Dogville was a radical departure from the naturalistic rules of Dogme 95, and instead the film invented a completely new style that draws from the theatre but yet remains eminently cinematic.

A trilogy directed by Per Fly, The Bench, Inheritance, and Manslaughter received international acclaim. The work of Susanne Bier, particularly Brothers and After the Wedding, introduced the world to Danish actors such as Mads Mikkelsen, Ulrich Thomsen, and Nikolaj Lie Kaas. After the Wedding was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Anders Thomas Jensen first received acclaim as screenwriter of such films as Mifune's Last Song, Open Hearts, Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself, Stealing Rembrandt, and Brothers; he is also becoming known as a director of dark and profound comedies like The Green Butchers and Adam's Apples.

Other notable Danish directors of the 21st century include Nikolaj Arcel, Christoffer Boe (Reconstruction), Lone Scherfig, Niels Arden Oplev, Nicolas Winding Refn, Ole Christian Madsen, and Annette K. Olesen.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Cinema of Denmark" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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