Benjamin Christensen

Det hemmelighedsfulde X
R: Benjamin Christensen. B: Laurids Skands. K: Emil Dinesen. D: Benjamin Christensen, Karen Caspersen, Otto Reinwald. P: Dansk Biograf Compagni. Dk 1913/14
Print: Danish Film Institute & Cinematheque

Benjamin Christensen (1879-1959) is probably the most innovative director of Danish silent cinema. He had full control over the creation of his films, not only as a director, but also in many cases by being producer, author and protagonist. Christensen’s first films clearly show his mastery of cinematic expression as well as his charismatic screen appearance. Christensen studied medicine, then took voice tuition, trained in drama and opera, and joined the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen in 1901. After a serious illness, he became a champagne and wine wholesaler. From 1911 onwards he worked as a scriptwriter and actor for the Dansk Biografkompagni in Hellerup, which he took over himself in 1913. His films Det hemmelighedsfulde X (Sealed Orders, 1914) and Hævnens Nat (Blind Justice, 1916) brought him immediate fame. He later filmed in Berlin and Hollywood, returning to Denmark in the early 1930s. His last films were poorly received and he ended his film career running a cinema in a suburb of Copenhagen.
The rarely seen tale of espionage love and treason set in a Europe on the brink of war, Det hemmelighedsfulde X, casts director Benjamin Christensen in a major role as Lt. van Hauen. As he prepares for impending war, the story revolves around his loving wife, who has become the object of the unwanted attentions of a questionable count. In part because human nature changes little, the fully satisfying drama engages on multiple and sophisticated levels. The plot turns on points of honor, loyalty to country, fidelity to family, and the treachery of greed and war. Though some of the cinematic devices will seem quaint, as in a technique resembling a huge stage whisper where the traitorous count hides in plain sight in the drawing room of the van Hauens, the emotionally satisfying screenplay has heart and timelessness. The visual style that clearly influenced German expressionist films that followed is pure pleasure to watch.”
Edition Filmmuseum