Denmark Cinematography Part I

By | December 18, 2021

Danish cinema developed very early and experienced a golden period in the first half of the 1910s, when it became, despite the very limited size of the country and its population, one of the most important in the world from an artistic, productive and commercial point of view; it then went into crisis at the end of the First World War. Despite a certain revival starting from the mid-thirties, for several decades the only internationally recognized author was Carl Theodor Dreyer, who met with extraordinary critical interest and delivered works of the highest value to history; all the other directors, while participating in important festivals in various countries, were never really taken into consideration, and their works were only sporadically distributed abroad. Bille August and Gabriel Axel, and then to those of Lars von Trier and the other exponents of the Dogme 95 movement. For Denmark 2006, please check computergees.com.

Origins and apogee of the silent, 1896-1916

The first public screening was organized in 1896 in Copenhagen by Vilhelm Pacht, the owner of an amusement park, with the apparatus and films of the Lumière brothers. The same year, court photographer Peter Elfelt directed the first film, Kørsel med grønlandske hunde (Traveling with Greenland Dogs), a fake reportage shot in a park in the capital. Over the next fifteen years, Elfelt made over two hundred documentaries and a single fiction film, Henrettelsen (1903, The Execution). Only in 1904, however, the first cinema was opened: in the course of the following two years the premises multiplied in every part of the country.

In 1906 a Copenhagen exhibitor, Ole Olsen, founded the first production company, Nordisk Films Kompagni, with a standardization project based on the US model: Nordisk specialized in melodramas – mostly chamber -, farces and thrillers. In just four years it reached 1700 employees and became the second European company, after the French Pathé, passing from 32 films in 1906 to 65 in 1907 and 106 in 1910. At the beginning of the 21st century. is the oldest production house in the world still in business. Starting from 1909 other companies were born: in 1910 there were already twenty-five, although many closed their doors after distributing only a handful of films; the most important, besides Nordisk, were Fotorama (specialized in historical films), Biorama, Kosmorama and Dansk Biografkompagni. Between 1910 and 1916, Denmark, with only three million residents, was the third largest film producer and exporter in the world (after France and the United States), exercising absolute dominion over all markets in northern, central and eastern Europe., and doing serious competition with local industries in France, Great Britain and Italy; Nordisk, in particular, achieved such economic power that, given the limited national market, it had to invest heavily abroad, especially in the exercise: until 1918 it was the owner of the main cinema chain in Germany. Northern, Central and Eastern Europe, and doing serious competition with local industries in France, Great Britain and Italy; Nordisk, in particular, achieved such economic power that, given the limited national market, it had to invest heavily abroad, especially in the exercise: until 1918 it was the owner of the main cinema chain in Germany. Northern, Central and Eastern Europe, and doing serious competition with local industries in France, Great Britain and Italy; Nordisk, in particular, achieved such economic power that, given the limited national market, it had to invest heavily abroad, especially in the exercise: until 1918 it was the owner of the main cinema chain in Germany.

The Danish works introduced some important new elements to the world cinema scene: the realism of the settings, an extremely expressive use of light and a much more measured acting style than the Italian or French model. 1910 also saw the birth of the phenomenon of stardom, generated by the great hold on the public of actresses such as Clara Pontoppidan and Asta Nielsen.. Nielsen, in particular, gained tremendous popularity with Urban Gad’s Afgrunden (1910; The Abyss), produced by Kosmorama, which marked the birth of the vamp figure and a new genre, ‘erotic melodrama’. The latter caused a sensation all over the world and was one of the determining elements in the international success of Danish cinema. Gad and Nielsen married the following year and moved to Germany, where they continued their careers. Before leaving her native country, the actress starred in two other major films, Gad’s Den sorte drøm (1911, The Black Dream) and August Blom’s Balletdanserinden (1911, The Dancer).

It was Alfred Lind who introduced, with Den hvide slavehandel (1910, The Trafficking of White Slaves), another innovation destined to spread throughout Europe, the extension of the duration that would then lead to the feature film. This film of the Fotorama, of about 35 minutes (until then the maximum duration was about 15 minutes), also inaugurated the ‘sensational’ genre, as it was the first to explicitly address the issue of prostitution.

However, it was Blom who popularized this new technical-narrative form: a few months later he made a remake of Lind’s film with the same title for Nordisk, giving life to a series that continued in 1911 and 1912 with two other episodes (the the last of which directed by Gad), much loved by the public for the variety of situations and twists. The longer duration allowed the writers to work out more complex and compelling plots, developing the characters better and giving the action a faster pace. In 1911 Nordisk was thus the first major European company to devote itself exclusively to it. Among the most significant works of Blom, we should especially remember Ved fænglets port (1911, At the entrance to the prison) and Atlantis (1913), which exceeded the two-hour screening.

Denmark Cinematography