Asta Nielsen: A Kind of Trance State

R: August Blom. B: Alfred Kjerulf. K: Axel Graatkjær. D: Asta Nielsen, Svend Bille, Otto Lagoni, Valdemar Møller, Johannes Poulsen, Karen Poulsen, Valdemar Psilander. P: Nordisk Film Kompagni. Dk 1911
Engl. subtitles

“The Danish actress Asta Nielsen was probably the leading European film performer of the 1910s. Though her dark demeanour and unconventional beauty probably led to a lack of success in the USA, in European countries, especially Germany, she was revered, with films such as Afgrunden (The Abyss) (1910), Balletdanserinden (1911), Die Suffragette (1913) being among the most iconic and forward-looking of their age. She and husband/director Urban Gad moved to Germany in 1911 and it was in that country, after she had established the Art-Film company, that Nielsen (now parted from Gad) embarked a radical film interpretation of Hamlet. Possibly by this time Nielsen’s star was a little on the wane, but her taste for the bold and challenging was undimmed.”
Luke McKernan
The Bioscope

“A graduate of the Royal Danish Theatre who had spent most of her twenties in rep with various companies, Nielsen made her screen debut with Urban Gad’s Afgrunden in 1910. This film caused a sensation with Nielsen’s unabashed potrayal of a woman who follows her impulse to run off with a cowboy from a travelling circus. (…)
Nielsen’s next two films, ‘The Ballet Dancer’ (Balletdanserinden) and ‘The Black Dream’ (Det sorte Drøm) both from 1911, followed similar themes of love, sex and retribution: in the end someone has to pay for passion miss-spent.
‘The Ballet Dancer’ was directed by August Blom and features Asta as Camille, a dancer who wins a role in a play after the lead actress is taken ill. The play is shot from the side of the stage and Asta is right at home in showing the closing scene and taking the applause from the unseen audience. (…)
Nielsen escalates the emotional intensity as things reach a climax. She goes into what she described as a kind of trance state as, overcome by the drama, her character’s mind races into overdrive. This was her way of pulling the audience towards her and making us work out her thoughts in synchronised sympathy. ‘I realised that one had to detach oneself completely from one’s surroundings in order to be able to perform an important scene in a dramatic film….’ she said later. It’s more than a neat trick and it is still working a century later.”

>>> Det sorte Drøm: Urban Gad
>>> Afgrunden: A Star is Born