Images of Copenhagen – A Journey through Time

EFG. Travel through time. From the earliest moving images of pedestrians and trams in the King’s Copenhagen to the pulsating metropolis of today traversed by bicycles, cars and subways.

As the centre of Danish film, television and media, Copenhagen has been meticulously documented through the years. Since the birth of cinema no event, small or big, has escaped the eyes of the cinematotographers.

Among the earliest filmmakers based in the capital of Denmark was Peter Elfelt, film pioneer and Royal Photographer.

Copenhagen, from land, sea and air

During the silent era Copenhagen was filmed in any way and angle from trams, boats and airplanes.
København paa Kryds og Tværs / A Tour through Copenhagen (1906) contains scenes from the guards at the royal palace, Amalienborg, fishmongers at the famous Gl. Strand and long trips by trams through the different parts of Copenhagen.

København paa Kryds og Tværs / A Tour through Copenhagen (1906)

That film was followed by films such as En tur gennem Københavns kanaler / Canals of Copenhagen (1908) and Luftoptagelser af København / [Copenhagen seen from the air] (1915)

En tur gennem Københavns kanaler / Canals of Copenhagen (1908)

Other films focused on moods and impressions of the changing seasons.

En Vinterdag i København og omegn / [A winter’s day in Copenhagen and environs] (1917) shows adults and kids at leisure on sleighs, skates and even bathing suits.

/ Watch excerpt from A wainter's day in Copenhagen and environs at europeanfilmgateway.eu

In 1917 the weekly newsreels became popular in the cinemas. With their focus on news stories and portraits of daily life in Copenhagen they offer a rare insight into the period.

Ugerevyen Danmark 10-13 / [Danish newsreel 10-13] (1917) shows the old Kødbyen where butchers and livestock found each other many years before they were replaced by students, lifestyle visionaries and hipsters on a somewhat different “meat market”.

Ugerevyen Danmark 10-13 / [Danish newsreel 10-13] (1917)

[Fra det København der forsvinder] / [From the disappearing Copenhagen] (1924) shows horse driven fire engines and fire fighters rescuing damsels in distress from burning houses.

[Fra det København der forsvinder] / [From the disappearing Copenhagen] (1924)

Copenhagen (1950). Gunnar Wangel’s fine documentary offers an exquisite view on 1950 Copenhagen as the authorities wanted the tourists to perceive the Danish capital.

/ Watch excerpt from Copenhagen at europeanfilmgateway.eu

Among the newer titles we offer excerpts. But access to view them in their entire length is possible through any Danish library at www.filmstriben.dk.

Three pinnacles of the New Danish documentary

In today’s films Copenhagen seldom takes center stage. It is so familiar that it is relegated to the background, but still it plays an important supporting role in fiction and documentary. This can be seen in these three very different films showing various aspects of living in Copenhagen.

Max Kestner’s playful Drømme i København / Dreams in Copenhagen (2009) shows the relationships between city, architecture and the life unfolding in and between the city’s buildings.

69 (2008) Nikolaj Viborg’s documentary about the famed Ungdomshuset that drew young people from all over Europe until events turned the building into a vacant lot, depicts a city opposed to that part of a new generation that refuses to surrender to bourgeois values and life style.

Hjemløs / [Homeless] (2010) Ditte Haarløv Johnsens documentary about some of the people who have been forced by circumstance to make the streets of Copenhagen their home.

This selection of films of Copenhagen shows the rapid development of the city from the early silent shorts of a staid tempo to the manifold documentaries trying to capture a city in flux.

Without doubt Copenhagen is one of Europe’s most thoroughly documented cities, but feel free to discover Paris, Rome and Berlin in similar fashion on the EFG website.