News / The Network


The Network - 22/12/2008


2008, a triumphant year for Danish cinema


National films received an exceptional record share of the Danish market for cinema attendance in 2008: Danish films are doing well. An opportunity to look back on the titles which made news this year - first and foremost Flame & Citron - and which are set to hit the headlines abroad next year.


The weeks surrounding the New Year celebrations are traditionally the time when national film centres issue information on the trends seen over the closing year. This season, the Danes were the quickest off the mark, and not without reason: not only did admissions reach a record level, but 2008 also saw the best attendance figures for Danish films in their own country since 1976.
Admissions exceeded the 13-million mark by the end of the year - 10% more than in 2007 - and 4.3 million of those were for national films, accounting for a 33% share of the market.

Nine Danish films figured in the Top 20 (on 14 December), led by Ole Christian Madsen's historical drama Flame & Citron, which attracted a huge 668,000 cinema-goers (from a national population of 5.5 million). In the over-15 age group, one Dane in 7 saw the film; the biggest national success since Italian for Beginners in 2000.
The other national hits were mainly comedies or family films, but, besides Susanne Bier's first US production, Things We Lost in the Fire, the Top 20 also includes two films that did the rounds of the festivals (but which we did not have the opportunity to see): Worlds Apart (Niels Arden Oplev), shown at the Berlin and Tribeca Festivals, and Terribly Happy (Henrik Ruben Genz), voted the best film at Karlovy Vary.

Flame & Citron is based on the true story of two resistance fighters and Nazi killers in occupied Denmark and is also the biggest-budget Danish film to date (9 million US dollars). It was sold to more than 25 countries, making it the biggest Danish film export at the moment. Clearly in the same vein as The Lives of Others and Black Book, Ole Christian Madsen's fourth feature-length film has already gone on release in Germany and Norway. Distribution is due to begin in Spain and Britain in the first few months of the new year.

Another film that appeared at last May's Cannes Market, Dancers by Pernille Fischer Christensen, has made a more modest mark so far, but could go down well in Europe's arthouse cinemas. This intimate comedy, the director's second feature-length movie, is carried by an exceptional performance from the actress Trine Dyrholm, and is in the same vein as her first feature A Soap or the psychological dilemmas that characterise the films of Susanne Bier.

Annika (Trine Dyrholm) runs a dance school, together with her mother. At the school, she meets an electrician (played by Anders W. Berthelsen) when he comes to carry out some repair work. He has just been released from prison, and is trying to reintegrate into society. And even though the perfect Annika is urged to flee from his troubled past, she cannot avoid falling seriously in love.
The Kingdom of Denmark is small, and, in a way, filmmaking there is a family affair. Anders W. Berthelsen also plays the lead in another film we saw recently. Just Another Love Story has taken some time to appear outside Denmark, following its success at home in 2007. At last! The film is due to appear in Germany, the Netherlands and the UK in the coming months.
We say at last, because the film is one of the cleverest, most delightful and entertaining European productions of recent times.
It opens with 3 love scenes, each in the style of a different film genre - the drama, the intimate comedy and the thriller. The protagonists are then reunited by a plot that mixes all these registers, as well as that of fantasy suspense, without the mixing of these different atmospheres ever impacting negatively on the uniformity of the film.
Jonas (Anders W. Berthelsen) leads a very happy life with his wife and two daughters,

until their car breaks down in the middle of the road and causes an accident (in a scene the like of which has rarely been seen on the big screen). The crash leaves Julia, a young, seemingly unstable woman, in a coma. Jonas's life had lacked excitement, but the mysterious figure of Julia changes that, and when her family mistakes him for her boyfriend, Sebastian, whom she met in Vietnam, he simply slips into the role. Little by little, flashbacks to the torrid relationship between Julia and Sebastian in Hanoi take the plot to a sweltering level of suspense, featuring the frightening figure of a mummified patient prowling around in a wheelchair. The film reaches its climax in a house by the sea where the two new lovers, Jonas/Sebastian and Julia, are confronted with the return of the real Sebastian.

Interestingly, that role is played by Nikolaj Lie Kaas, who has appeared in nearly half of all Danish films distributed abroad in the past 10 years and can currently be seen in a more classical thriller, The Candidate (Kasper Barfoed), which was presented at the last London Film Festival.
Lately, Danish filmmakers have been distinguishing themselves with psychological thrillers. Anders W. Berthelsen plays the lead role in What No One Else Knows (Søren Kragh-Jacobsen), a detective film set against the background of a secret service conspiracy, which was presented in Berlin and at Cannes Market. At the same time, Ulrich Thomsen can currently be seen in Danish theatres in Fear Me Not (Kristian Levring).
All these titles should be on release abroad in 2009. But the coming year will hopefully be mark

ed by new films from Lars von Trier and Nicolas Winding Refn, whose releases were previewed in autumn.

Antichrist by von Trier is due to appear in France in the end of August and then in Denmark and Germany. 
But it is above all the director of Pusher who is attracting attention. The first stills from his Viking film, Valhalla Rising, carried by Mads Mikkelsen in the star role, have appeared on the Internet, and theoretically, the film should be ready in time for Cannes.
Jean-Baptiste Selliez


Pictures (from top):
Flame & Citron (in Germany), Just Another Love Story,
Dancers, Fear Me Not, Valhalla Rising