How much greatness are you allowed to reasonably expect from a small film country like Denmark in 2013/2014? Judging by the best Danish films in its history, I’d say you may expect a lot. Because their best films are way better and more innovative than most films of small and big European countries alike, and the Danes have not only delivered quality, they also deliver quantity. In recent history, in the 2000’s, Denmark once again had the eye of the international film community following its every move. With Dogme 95 directors hitting maturity, and with other upcoming powerful filmmakers, both male and female, delivering new Danish films cinephiles go crazy for, Danish film was flourishing and breaking language barriers by exporting their films worldwide. Particularly commercially successful were the old Dogme 95 giants like Lars von Trier (Nymphomaniac, 2014) and Thomas Vinterberg (Jagten, 2012) who kept experimenting with film and continuously pushing its boundaries, both in terms of style and content. But there were also the luxury oozing drama films by Susanne Bier (After the Wedding, 2005), the magnificently absurd comedies by Anders Thomas Jensen (Adam’s Apples, 2005)), and the violent crime films (the Pusher trilogy) by Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive, 2011).
But as it often goes with great talent, it goes abroad. Just like its Swedish neighbors, Danish filmmakers have tried their luck at English language films, and most of them (except for Vinterberg and Bier) have completely left Danish language films behind. Unfortunately, in the 2010’s it did not look like exceptional new Danish filmmakers have come forth. To make things worse for Danish cinema, big money was made in television, as Danish television shows conquered the world with amazing tv shows like the political drama Borgen, and the now famous detective series The Killing (check out the six best ones on television in 2014, link below). Now in this article framing the best new Danish films of the 10’s including 2013 and 2014, it feels like Danish film is slightly suffering from its competition with television, but there is still plenty of good Danish films coming our way. Let’s first quickly see which great new Danish films we can expect in 2015, and which ones were the best Danish films of 2013/14?
What can we expect of Danish cinema 2015?
Here are the most highly anticipated Danish films of 2014. That means, Danish language feature films. There’s a lot to look forward to this year!
Mænd & Høns (Men & Chicken), 2015
Directed by Anders Thomas Jensen
Starring Mads Mikkelsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas and David Dencik
We really can’t wait to see this one. After directing three brilliant dark comedies (Flickering Lights, 2000, Green Butchers, 2003 and most of all Adams Apples, 2005) Denmark’s most prolific screenwriter Anders Thomas Jensen finally returns behind the camera. The trailer looks damn promising. It’s really amazing how Mads Mikkelsen looks entirely different in every film.
Kollektivet (The Commune), 2015
Directed by Thomas Vinterberg
Starring Ulrich Thomasen, Trine Dyrholm and Fares Fares
Fans of Danish director Thomas Vinterberg (Festen, 1998, Jagten, 2012) have definitely something to look out for in 2015. In spring, his English language costume drama Far From the Maddening Crowd hits the theaters. Later this year, his new Danish film will be released. Kollektivet revolves around a hippie commune in the 1970’s. It’s hard not to think of that other Scandinavian commune film Tillsammans (2000) by Lukas Moodysson. Let’s hope it’s just as great!
More upcoming Danish films in 2015:
Kapgang – Dir. Niels Arden Oplev
Flaskepost – Dir. NikolajArcel
In Embryo – Dir. Ulrich Thomsen
Backstabbing For Beginners – Dir. Per Fly
Land of Mine – Dir. Martin Zandvliet
A War of Their Own – Dir. Bille August
A War Director – Dir. Tobias Lindholm
Tordenskiold – Dir. Henrik Ruben Genz
Framing last years – Best Danish films of 2013/14
Når Dyrene Drømmer (When Animals Dream), 2014
Directed by Jonas Alexander Arnby
Starring Lars Mikkelsen, Jakob Oftebro and Sonja Richter
When Animal Dreams is the first feature film of video clip director Arnby turned film director. And that shows; this unusual coming of age werewolf story about a young girl in a remote fishing village who has to come to terms with her strange powers looks very flashy. Plot-wise, When Animals Dreams falls short from time to time, but Arnby succeeds in creating an outlandish world that feels very naturalistic and poetic at the same time.
Directed by Lars von Trier
Starring Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgård and Stacy Martin
The biggest enfant terrible of the movie industry pulled it off again. There’s no director quite like von Trier. Nymphomaniac, a 4,5 hour epic which explores the perverse history of a sex addict (Gainsbourg) divided audiences around the globe. We think it’s von Trier’s most powerful work to date though. It’s funny, thrilling, gripping, disgusting and smart. Now it is rare a single film is all these kind of things.
Directed by Katrine Wiedemann
Featuring Lars Mikkelsen, Julie Zangenberg
This small by Lars von Trier executively produced absurdist, and pleasantly disturbing erotic tale, is one of the most interesting films to have been released in 2013. It was written by Kim Fupz Aakeson (best known for the British Perfect Sense, 2011) who is not unfamiliar with writing screenplays about films in which sex and perversions are exposed incredibly honestly. The premise of Vicevaerten (English title: The Caretaker’s tale) is very rich: it is about a bitter and unpleasant man who comes across a beautiful and mysterious girl who lives in his apartment building, and is completely naked and turns out to have sexual healing powers. He is not very reluctant to make full use of this. It was pretty well exploited, but I cannot help feeling that there was a bit more there. It stays perhaps a little bit too superficial, but this was probably what director Katrine Wiedemann was going for. A film you should definitely check out. Here is a trailer with English subtitles.
Directed by Tobias Lindholm
Featuring Pilou Asbæk and Søren Malling
Kapringen or The Hijacking is the new Tobias Lindhom film. Lindhom is probably the most important new name in the Danish cinema of the 10’s. He is best known for writing screenplays for Vinterberg’s drama’s, like for Jagten and Submarino, but he made his own directorial debut with R in 2010, together with action film director Michael Noer. Now at the end of 2012 (released internationally in 2013) he made a film about the hot international topic of Somali pirating, and can therefore best be explained in contrast to that other hijacking film, Paul Greengrass’ Captain Phillips (2013) with Tom Hanks. In Kapringen a ship also gets hijacked by Somalian pirates, but where Captain Phillips relies heavily on suspense, and is tense and jittery with a shaky cam, only to become emotionally engaging at the very end, Kapringen is much more understated and has a lot less ‘action’, but leaves the viewer behind with a better understanding of the pirates, and leaves you behind much more devastated.
Top 7 new best Danish films of the 10’s (2010-2012)
Here are some of the essential must-see Danish films of this decade.
7. Klown (2010) by Mikkel Nørgaard / Smukke Mennesker (2010) by Mikkel Much-Fals
6. R (2010) by Tobias Lindholm
5. Teddy Bear (2012) by Mads Matthiesen
4. A Royal Affair (2012) by Nicolai Arcel
3. Submarino (2010) by Thomas Vinterberg
2. Heavnen (2011) by Susanne Bier
1. Jagten (2012) by Thomas Vinterberg
Must-see Danish/American films since 2010 – Top Danish filmmakers internationally
Several Danish filmmakers have become very successful in Hollywood and elsewhere in the world. The most famous one is the controversial and eccentric filmmaker Lars von Trier, but also Nicolas Winding Refn is making a name for himself. Here a few Essential films, English-spoken but created by Danish talent. The second time I watched Drive, it was not as rewarding as the first time. Also his new film Only God Forgives (2013) was so-so. Von Trier, on the other hand, is a film god. The films below maybe considered to be absolute gems of international cinema, and are therefore essential must-watch films for every film lover.
Drive (2011), Refn
Melancholia (2011), von Trier
Nymphomaniac (2013), von Trier
As said above, the Danes are at the moment primarily popular because of television. Check out the six Best Danish TV series of the 2010?s
I hope you enjoyed this little introduction to Danish cinema, and feel free to share your thoughts on the new best Danish films since 2010.