Painting the landscape of memory

Nils Malmros holds a unique position in Danish film as cinematic storyteller, memoirist and auteur.

Kundskabens trae

The protagonist Elin is caught up in a web of intrigue in "The Tree of Knowledge" from 1981, a pivotal work in Malmros' production (photo: Torben Stroyer)

Unaffected by fashion trends, Nils Malmros has consistently told stories of his life growing up in Denmark’s second city Aarhus. He has brought his childhood and teen years to the screen with sensitivity, humour and insight, every detail steeped in the authenticity of lived experience.

Distinguishing his approach is a unique ability to see everything from a child's perspective without ever superimposing adult hindsight.

His films comprise a continuing story of the loss of innocence in secure, bourgeois surroundings that still are no guard against traumas and profound heartache.

THE AWKWARDNESS OF PUBERTY

For years, Nils Malmros, a self-taught filmmaker, was the only Danish director capable of drawing crowds to cinemas solely on the strength of his name.

His chief work, "The Tree of Knowledge" (1981), was shot over two years, as he followed a group of school kids through the awkward phases of puberty. Distinguishing his approach is a unique ability to see everything from a child’s perspective without ever, it seems, superimposing adult hindsight and patterns of interpretation. Chronicling the kids’ first infatuations and mutual intrigues, clique reshufflings and power games, Malmros presents a razor-sharp rendition of the jargon and social forms of the restrictive 1950s.  His exacting use of colloquial dialogue, which is never without a subtext, makes the film a singular, oftenuncanny, experience for Danish audiences who appreciate the subtleties and nuances.

ARROGANCE?

Malmros has stayed in his hometown of Aarhus, where he taught himself the filmmaking craft, and where most of his films are set.

Never letting himself be swallowed up by the pulsating Danish filmmaking scene, he has exclusively made films con amore, initiating the projects and always writing every single word himself.

Alongside his film career, he found the time to go to medical school and has practiced medicine in between his films for a combined seven years now.

Still, his calling is cinema. He is one of very few Danish filmmakers for whom his internationally better known colleague Lars von Trier has publicly voiced his great respect, even awe, labelling Malmros “the most arrogant person I have ever met, and it’s not an affectation”.

In particular, Malmros’ artistic ability to elevate the commonplace – his confidence that small, everyday dramas can be made interesting to the rest of the world – earned him von Trier’s “arrogant” label. Malmros, who is affable and accommodating in person, is not one to make big statements in his films. Seeing greatness in infinitely small things, he illuminates the landscape of memory with an acuteness of detail, savoir-faire and unsentimental poetry that has made him the most beloved living filmmaker in Denmark.

Completing the memoir cycle about his childhood and youth, "Aching Hearts" is another milestone in an exquisite, uncompromising body of work.

Nils Malmros_fotograf Martin Dam KristensenDirector Nils Malmros (photo: Martin Dam Kristensen)

Contact

Danish Film Institute
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Denmark
Tel. +45 3374 3400
Fax +45 3374 3401
dfi@dfi.dk

Det Danske Filminstitut

Danish Film Institute /
Det Danske Filminstitut

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Gothersgade 55
1123 København K

Tel. +45 3374 3400
Fax +45 3374 3401
E-mail: dfi@dfi.dk

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