Jørgen Leth's film portraits — fifth DVD

Dancers, poets and sports icons take centre stage in eight films presented in the fifth DVD set of the Jørgen Leth Collection. Whether it is dance, literature or sport, Leth strives to portray people and situations by zeroing in on the creative process itself. His fascination with the individual's will to transcend own limitations and achieve the sublime could be a heading for the filmmaker's oeuvre.


In "Peter Martins: A Dancer" (1978), Martins, at the apex of his career as lead dancer and choreographer at the New York City Ballet, talks about his intellectual and physical journey from the Bournonville tradition to Balanchine's lab. Leth is equally consumed with investigating how choreography takes shape. How do dancers and director communicate? In "Dancing Bournonville" (1979), Leth follows the Royal Danish Ballet's solo dancers as they rehearse The Kermesse in Bruges (The Three Gifts) and other dances. One sequence illustrates Bournonville's notion of the combined ballet moves and mimic expression, as Bournonville expert Hans Brenaa instructs ballerina Mette Ida Kirk. In "Step on Silence" (1981), Leth returns to the footage from his Peter Martins film, and in collaboration with Kristian Levring, re-edits the footage, showing multiple takes of the same detail in succession to illustrate the laborious and often exhausting process that takes place in the rehearsal studio.


In Leth's trademark tableaux "Klaus Rifbjerg" (1974), renowned novelist, Rifbjerg, reflects on a variety of subjects, among them the relationship between gravity and pretence, hatred of art, political art, the absurdity of life and the basic conditions of existence. We have to hone our ears and brains to get every point the poet makes in the stories he tells in "I'm Alive. Søren Ulrik Thomsen: A Danish Poet" (1999). Meanwhile Leth's black and white images have a poetry and beauty of their own that curl around Thomsen's words and take us in other directions. Poetry is likewise at the heart of "Danish Literature" (1989), spanning the spectrum from hymn writer H.A. Brorson to punk poet Michael Strunge. Lavish, almost dreamlike shots of Danish countryside are intercut between poems read by professional readers or the poets themselves.

Sports icons

Leth's "Kalule" (1979) is a portrait of the Ugandan boxer Ayub Kalule who lived in Denmark in the 1970s. The film tracks his rise to the world championship titles that made him such a huge star in his adopted homeland. In "Michael Laudrup: A Football Player" (1993), Leth catches Michael Laudrup, arguably Denmark's best footballer ever, at the peak of his form, as a key player on one of the world's best teams, FC Barcelona. We hear Laudrup discuss the game of football and the team that gave him ideal opportunities to unfold his talent. All the while, Leth keeps his focus squarely on Laudrup, the football artiste, tightly framed in games and on the practice pitch, highlighting Laudrup’s nearly ballet-like movement patterns, his virtuosic ball-handling and superior eye for the game.

The Jørgen Leth Collection, generously supported by Møllehegnet Holding A/S, is composed of six DVD box sets, five of these are now published: Anthropological Films (01-05), Sports Films (06-11), Travel Films (12-18), Fiction Films (19-21) and Film Portraits (22-29). All films are with English subtitles, and included in each box is a booklet and extra material. Yet to be published is Early Experiments.

The box sets can be purchased at the DFI Video & Bookstore. Please note that watching the DVDs outside Europe (PAL, region 0) requires a multi-region DVD player.

For further information:

DFI Pressroom
The Jørgen Leth Collection 1-5

Purchase the box set at
DFI Video & Bookstore

Danish Film Institute (DFI)
Lisbeth Richter Larsen +45 3374 3546, lisbethrl@dfi.dk
Regitze Oppenhejm +45 3374 3536, regitzeo@dfi.dk