Asta Nielsen for our time

SILENT FILM. Danish silent film actress Asta Nielsen was a megastar in her time. She also has the makings of an icon for today. Discover Denmark's arguably biggest movie star ever in a new section on the Danish Film Institute’s silent film website.

"Asta Nielsen was always very much her own woman. And always ahead of her time. Her acting style was naturalistic, while others were still gesticulating furiously on screen. She had no explicit wish to be a pioneer. She just did what she wanted." 

So says Madeleine Schlawitz, collection manager at the Danish Film Institute, about Asta Nielsen and the Danish silent film star’s impact today. 

"Though Nielsen had her heyday a century ago, she deserves to be enshrined as one of the world’s greatest silent screen stars," Schlawitz adds.

A lot of people may know more or less about who Asta Nielsen is, but few know how tough and modern she was, and how relevant she still is. That’s the story we want to tell.

- Madeleine Schlawitz

The Danish star is now being celebrated with a theme section on the Danish Film Institute’s silent film website, Nielsen’s reputation as a modern female role model is getting a good dusting off and several of her films are available for streaming. 

Asta Nielsen in 2020

"A lot of people may know more or less about who Asta Nielsen is, but few know how tough and modern she was, and how relevant she still is. That’s the story we want to tell,” Schlawitz says about the theme section, which is accompanied by an on-site exhibition at the Brandts art museum in Odense, focusing on Nielsen's film career in roaring Berlin.

"She deserves to be rediscovered in all her many facets. Even more so now in light of the heightened focus on 1920’s Berlin following the TV series 'Babylon Berlin', which has a character, Betty Winter, that’s a lot like Asta Nielsen,” Schlawitz says.


Find all previous themes about the Danish silent film era and watch films on the Danish Film Institute's streaming site, available in English.

Nielsen stands out as a woman who did what she wanted, not just in terms of her acting style but also in how she approached her roles.

"Asta never compromised her career. She founded her own production company, Art Film, to make 'Hamlet'. Was Asta going to play Ophelia? No, she played Hamlet, of course. She was a true gender bender. Women like Sandra Bullock and Reese Witherspoon are hailed for producing and writing lead roles for themselves, but Asta Nielsen was doing that 100 years ago,” Schlawitz says.

"A lot of women in history are falling by the wayside in 2020. That must not happen to Asta Nielsen. There was never anyone like here, and there likely never will be."

Focus on Asta Nielsen

Asta Nielsen: #Bosslady is the sixth chapter in the Danish Film Institute’s presentation of Danish silent film on the streaming site The theme casts the Danish silent film star, notorious for her risqué dance in Urban Gad’s 1910 'The Abyss', in a contemporary light. 

Under the theme, you can read journalist Nanna Frank Rasmussen’s article about Asta Nielsen as a "feminist role model", watch a recently produced film about the Danish silent film star and experience a number of films from her long career.

Asta Nielsen is also being celebrated with an exhibition at Kunstmuseum Brandts in Odense. Die Asta: The Superstar of Danish Silent Film tells the story of Nielsen's varied film career from 1910 to 1932 in roaring Berlin, her base until 1937. The exhibition, which runs until 15 August 2021, is organised in partnership with the Danish Film Institute. See more at


Madeleine Schlawitz
Collection Manager
Tel. +45 3374 3593