You see it in her forthright child's gaze, a prime impression of something endlessly soulful. Stine Fischer Christensen is one of those rare actresses who know how to peel away all protective layers to appear emotionally naked and vulnerable.
This ability produces sublime moments in her latest role, in Anders Morgenthaler's drama "Echo". As rootless Angélique, she fleetingly steps in as a combination big sister and replacement mom for a confused six-year-old boy kidnapped by his desperate divorcé dad. Her charisma lends the scenes of her saying goodbye to the boy a melancholy, tender yearning that is pure poetry.
This Angélique is no angel, though. A reckless drifter, promiscuous, sensual and potty-mouthed, she is fuelled by a desire for adventure and a lust for life that swiftly draw the boy, Louis, to her. They are kindred souls, sharing a fundamental innocence and openness to life.
In Fischer Christensen's hands, what could easily have been a one-note portrayal of a tough cookie with sex appeal becomes a multi-dimensional portrait of a flesh and blood person.
Fischer Christensen learned what it's like to stand in front of a camera at an early age. She played in several of her older sister Pernille Fischer Christensen's short films (Pernille had her big breakthrough as the director of "A Soap", winning the Silver Bear in 2006).
Fischer Christensen also had a leading role as the gawky title character of Annette K. Olesen's ambitious fantasy short "Tifanfaya" (1997).
"As a child, I was too young to fully comprehend what it means to be a child actor," Fischer Christensen says. "Often, it was just really boring, standing around in a cold forest, for instance, waiting to play a scene. I was more interested in what the crew was doing and figured it had to be a lot more exciting to be behind the camera. The game the grown-ups were playing looked like a lot more fun."
BREAKTHROUGH IN AFTER THE WEDDING
Fischer Christensen was "discovered" by filmmaker-slash-cartoonist Anders Morgenthaler after acting in a 2003 student film, "Aftenland", at the National Film School of Denmark.
Morgenthaler cast her as the porn star Christina in "Princess" (2006) his aesthetically inventive animated film for adults. It was a role she largely improvised to life. The character appears only on porn videos watched by the animated characters.
Her real breakthrough came later that year in a dramatically different role as newly wed Anna in "After the Wedding", Susanne Bier's critically acclaimed drama of a torn family.
Again, she gives real depth and credibility to a seemingly rather one-dimensional character, a spoiled, somewhat naive rich kid who marries a shallow man from her social set.
When Anna discovers, first, that her father isn't her real father, second, that her husband is cheating on her, she suffers a painful loss of innocence that comes across as heart-rendingly authentic in Fischer Christensen's performance. The climax comes when Anna visits her newly discovered biological father Jacob (Mads Mikkelsen) in his hotel room. With terrific spontaneity, she conveys the bashful intimacy of this awkward father-daughter encounter.
The performance earned her a Danish film critics' Bodil award as the year's best supporting actress.
THE NEED FOR TRAINING
Stine Fischer Christensen considers herself an actress who puts a high demand on naturalism. Her love affair with the camera is clearly a happy one: the closer in, the bigger the effect, as the camera captures the slightest emotional ripple on her smooth, childishly innocent face. A face of visual poetry, the quintessence of vulnerable girlishness.
No matter how successful, any Danish actor or actress would be foolhardy to put all his or her eggs in the movie basket. Early on, Fischer Christensen realised she needed real acting chops and applied to the Danish National School of Theatre, where she is now in her third year.
She had her stage debut in autumn 2007, playing a small part in the stage version of Thomas Vinterberg’s Dogme film "The Celebration" at Copenhagen's Østre Gasværk theatre.
"I was always fascinated by theatre and learned a lot from my first outing on a big stage," Fischer Christensen says. "There is a joy of the moment and in developing my part night by night. When I was 14 years old, I worked at Østre Gasværk as a hatcheck girl and was enormously fascinated by the game all the grown-ups were playing on stage. So it's fun to be part of the same game now"