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5 Great Danish Female Drama Directors: Tests of Mind & Body

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We all love a great movie but do we ever give much thought to the people driving the stories, delivering them to the big screen? Women have just as much to give to film as men and yet they remain a minority in the movie world. Here, I wish to focus on a select group of the best Danish female drama directors who have and continue to deliver the greatest stories. Susanne Bier and Rie Rasmussen are among them.

What Sets Female Directors Apart From Men?

“If there’s specific resistance to women making movies, I just choose to ignore that as an obstacle for two reasons: I can’t change my gender, and I refuse to stop making movies…” – Kathryn Bigelow

Making movies seems to be a man’s world. They dominate the scene but among the many are a select few Danish female drama directors who are setting their own trend. They have their own unique tool – a female voice. At times they have a softer, gentle tone and bring a different essence to the big screen.

The very first narrative film, La Fee aux Choux was made by Alice Guy-Blache in 1896, more than one hundred years ago. While American Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win the Academy Award for directing in 2010.

Susanne Bier

“My first job as a filmmaker is to not make a boring film. I think it really is about addressing the conflict between characters and addressing the storytelling and psychology. That way the feelings are the undercurrent of the whole story, which is exciting…”

Susanne Bier is a Danish Female Director from Copenhagen, Denmark. She said in an interview once that her life informs the stories she tells. Interesting to note that her father, a German Jew, and her mother, A Russian Jew, met in Denmark. Her father had fled there in 1933 and when the Nazis began rounding up the Jews in Denmark, the pair fled by boat to Sweden. Susanne graduated in 1987, and her graduation film, De Saliges (1987) won the first prize at the Munich Film School Festival and was later distributed by Channel Four. Her films are permeated with family themes and psychology.

Her Best Movies

She received her first Oscar nomination for her film, After the Wedding (2006) but it was her later film, In a Better World (2010) that finally won the award. The film is about two Danish families who cross each other and a surprising, risky friendship that blooms. It features a doctor in an African war zone and deals with war, conflict, friendship and high emotion.

Susanne’s films are brimming with dysfunctional yet loving families; family is perhaps at the heart of her directing. She is a director with a true passion for stories rich in revealing human nature in all its gory beauty.

Lone Scherfig

“But as a film director, you do what you can to make sure that the tone and the heart, and the original thinking of the script, survive the film machine, because I really loved the original script – if I didn’t like the script, I wouldn’t have directed it! So I wanted to add a cinematic layer: to get the best out of the actors, and make it visual, and make the soundtrack work – but the core is basically the script…”

Her Best Movies

Lone Scherfig is another great Danish director. Her first feature as a film director was The Birthday Trip which premiered at the 1991 Berlin Festival and went on to win several awards worldwide. An Education (2009), starring Carey Mulligan and Peter Sarsgaard, is a coming-of-age story about a sixteen year old girl in 1960s suburban London. When she meets a playboy nearly twice her age and is seduced. The film is based on a memoir by British journalist Lynn Barber, who wrote about her own experience as a sixteen year old girl in a relationship with a much older man.

Lone Scherfig is the Danish director with the Midas touch, who values the heart of the script where she knows the treasure lies.

Rie Rasmussen

Rie Rasmussen is a Danish actress, film director, writer, model and photographer.

Her Best Movies

She wrote, directed and produced her first feature film, Human Zoo which was selected at the 2009 Berlin Film Festival and opened the Panorama section. It’s a drama loosely based on the story of her adopted Vietnamese sister struggling to obtain citizenship set against the backdrop of the Kosovo conflict. Themes of immigration with associated aggression and violence are explored.

Rie Rasmussen, the director with daring curiosity who’s not afraid of featuring the evil in life in all its rawness.

Pernille Fischer Christensen

Pernille Fischer Christensen is a Danish director and writer known for A Soap (2006), A Family (2010).

Her Best Movies

Someone You Love (2014). When world famous singer-songwriter Thomas Jacob returns to his native Denmark to record an album, he meets up with his estranged daughter and his 11-year old grandson, Noa. Against his will, he begins to look after Noa and the two connect through music. But when disaster strikes, Thomas is forced to make a life changing choice. This modern, emotional drama explores love within yourself and finding a way back to life, back to family. Again, for a female director the exploration of intimate relationships is an undercurrent which bubbles throughout her work.

Pernille Fischer Christensen is a female director with her finger on the creative pulse of life itself.

Natasha Arthy

Here we have another Danish film director, writer and producer.

Her Best Movies

She is best known for Fighter (2007), Miracle (2000) and Old, New, Borrowed and Blue (2003) which received the Grand Jury Prize at the Los Angeles Film Festival. Fighter was written and directed by Natasha and features a high school student named Aicha who begins training in secret at a professional kung fu club. She comes to realise that the rules of life are more complex than those of kung fu. It’s a martial arts feature, and the fighting is impressive.

Natasha Arthy is the female movie director packing a punch behind the camera.


What Do You Think?

So while women are hugely under-represented in the film industry the fact remains that Danish female directors make fantastic movies and long may they continue.

We hope this has given you an insight into the life of Danish women directors. So often we simply watch the movie and don’t spare a thought for those who worked so diligently to bring the movie to our attention. If you like a particular movie, look up the director and see what other movie delights they have to offer.

Have a recommendation for us?

Let us know in the comments below!

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