Holger-Madsen 02

Four stills


R: Holger-Madsen. B: Arthur Schnitzler (“Liebelei”). D: Valdemar Psilander, Else Froehlich, Augusta Blad. P: Nordisk. Dk 1913/14






“The two leading directors at Nordisk Films Kompagni in the Golden Age of the Danish cinema from 1910 to 1914 were August Blom and Holger-Madsen. They were similar in many respects. They both started as actors, but unlike Blom, Holger-Madsen began as a director with companies other than Nordisk. When he came to Nordisk he worked in almost all of the genres of the period —sensational films, comedies, farces, dramas, and tragedies. Gradually, though, Holger-Madsen developed his own personality, both in content and style.
Holger-Madsen specialized in films with spiritual topics. His main film in this genre was Evangeliemandens Liv , in which Valdemar Psilander plays the leading part of a dissolute young man of good family who suddenly realizes how empty and pointless his life is. He becomes a Christian and starts working as a preacher among the poor and the social outcasts of the big city. He succeeds in rescuing a young man from the path of sin. Several of the clichés of the period are featured in this tale, but the characterization of the hero is largely free of sentimentality, and Holger-Madsen coached Psilander into playing the role with a mature calm, and genuine strength of feeling. Formally the film is exquisite. The sets, the camerawork, and the lighting are executed with great care, and the film is rich in striking pictorial compositions, which was the director’s forte.
Holger-Madsen had a predilection for extraordinary, often bizarre images and picturesque surroundings. With his cameraman, Marius Clausen, he emphasized the visual look of his films. His use of side light, inventive camera angles, and close-ups, combined with unusual sets, made him an original stylist. He was not very effective in his cutting technique, but he could establish marvelously choreographed scenes in which people moved in elegant patterns within the frame.
Holger-Madsen’s reputation as an idealistic director led him to direct the big prestige films with pacifist themes which Ole Olsen, the head of Nordisk Films Kompagni, wanted to make in the naive hope that he could influence the fighting powers in the First World War. The films were often absurdly simple, but Holger-Madsen brought his artistic sense to the visual design of these sentimental stories. One of his most famous films is Himmelskibet from 1917, a work about a scientist who flies to Mars in a rocket ship. There he is confronted with a peaceful civilization. The film has obtained a position as one of the first science–fiction films.
When the Danish cinema declined, Holger-Madsen went to Germany. Returning to Denmark after the 1920s, he was offered the opportunity of directing during the early sound film period, but his productions were insignificant. He was a silent film director; the image was his domain, and he was one of the craftsmen who molded and refined the visual language of film.”
Film Reference