Madsen, riding the new wave of Danish cinema

THESSALONIKI – Talkies killed the prolific Danish cinema industry at the start of the 20th century, according to Ole Christian Madsen, who was among the forces that powered its international resurrection in the 1990s along with others in the Danish New Wave, such as Thomas Vinterberg and Per Fly, members of the golden generation of the National Film School of Denmark.

?When films began having sound and were being heard in Danish, which everyone thought sounded awful, we lost our edge,? Madsen told a press conference at the Thessaloniki International Film Festival, which is holding a tribute to his work, on the industry that was booming in the early 1900s and considered one of the biggest producers or films worldwide, second only to Hollywood.

From the advent of audio technology in the years preceding World War I and with the exception of filmmakers such as Carl Dreyer, it was not until the 1980s that Danish cinema really began to gather steam again, making its way back onto the international circuit with work by the controversial Lars von Trier in the mid-1980s, and, later in the same decade with ?Babette’s Feast,? directed by Gabriel Axel, which received the 1987 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

The Dogme 95 movement, started in 1995, established Danish cinema more firmly on the map as it introduced a stripped-down style and technique, first launched by Vinterberg in ?The Celebration,? which went on to form a foundation for a new generation of Danish filmmakers, propagated by Trier and later Kristian Levring and Soren Kragh-Jacobsen.

?Dogme had many different aspects,? explained Madsen, who belongs to the successors of the movement. ?It brought Danish cinema back, with low-budget films that returned to the essentials of cinema, which are the scenes and the actors. Dogme films describe the lives of people with brutal realism,? said Madsen, who adopted the style for his 2001 drama ?Kira’s Reason: A Love Story.?

Social realism, however, was not Madsen’s thing, though he did decide to keep his focus on the subject of relationships, making two more films — ?Prague? in 2006 and ?Superclasico? in 2011 — that took different approaches to the subject of marriage and formed what has become termed a trilogy.

?The first is a film of brutal realism, the second is more theatrical, more melodramatic, and the third is a comedy,? Madsen said. ?When I did ‘Superclasico’ I had reached a point in my life when relationships seemed sunny more than anything else. Everything I did seemed ridiculous or tragic and I wanted to change my point of view; I wanted something simple and primitive. I was in Argentina, at a soccer match, and I decided to do my film there, in that beautiful, modest and funny country that gave me such a sense of liberation.?

Madsen gained international acclaim in 2008 with ?Flame