Great Movies V

film 6 of 6

The Danish Poet

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jul 31, 2015

Man, these NFB kids’ films! Maybe I should say, Man, the way the best of these NFB kids’ films contain what’s best about kids’ literature and culture! The Danish Poet is not a Hans Andersen adaptation, but it sure features an Andersen-like narrative voice. “I wanted the style [of narration],” he said, “to be such that the reader felt the presence of the storyteller.” (Andersen, The Complete Fairy Tales and Stories. NY, Anchor Books: 1071.) That meant that the story got told, but also that the storyteller felt free to elaborate, to reinforce, to go off book, as it were. It meant more than anything that the storyteller felt free to engage the young reader in a way that was separate from, greater than the story at hand. This conversation was parental, really, or familial, or sensitive to the fact that children’s film and literature is really, finally enacted in the homes and hearts of those who absorb and apply it.

This would become a characteristic of so much of the greatest children’s literature. It’s in Lewis Carroll, Charles Kingsley, Mark Twain, Kenneth Grahame, James Barrie, E. Nesbit, A.A. Milne. It’s all over the place. And it’s in this film, in spades. Its entertaining and substantial story is very well told, but Liv Ullmann’s dulcet narration adds all manner of affection, combined with piquant irony and extra-narrative insight. Much of the credit here goes to writer/director Torill Kove, creator of the also-exemplary My Grandmother Ironed the King’s Shirts (q.v.). Both productions are similar in their lightness, their wit, in the way that they effortlessly bind generations, continents even, in the easiest and most thrilling way.

Do you like corporate media? I do, or at least I often do. It can be, it has been so great. On the other hand, something like this:

There’s a difference, isn’t there?