Det förste Filmarkiv / The First Film Archive

Det förste Filmarkiv / The First Film Archive

Danish Film Classics

In celebration of the 60th Anniversary of The Danish Film Institute / Archive & Cinematheque the first seventy films donated to the Danish State are published on this DVD. The first film archive contains a total of seventy films showing Danish events and people of the period 1899-1913. Twenty films donated by Royal Court Photographer Peter Elfelt, thirty one films given by founder of Nordisk Films Kompagni, Ole Olsen, and nineteen films given by Journalist Anker Kirkeby on behalf of the newspaper Politiken. The films from Politiken were produced with the specific purpose of creating a national film archive.

About the films

The first Danish film archive, The National Archive for Historical Films and Voices, was founded at a meeting at the Royal Library on April 9th, 1913. As the name indicates, it was also an archive for sound recordings, but only the films will be discussed here.

The archive was initiated by Anker Kirkeby, a dynamic journalist with the newspaper Politiken. In 1911 he had persuaded Ole Olsen, founder of Nordisk Films Kompagni, to have Nordisk record a number of subjects of historical interest without reimbursement.

On December 5th, 1911 a contract was undersigned between Politiken and Nordisk Films Kompagni in which they agreed to "film cinematographic portraits of people, which it would be of historical interest to preserve for the future."

Information about the Nordisk/Politiken films is scarce in the corporate records. They were not part of the normal business of Nordisk and were probably not given much attention at a time when Nordisk Films Kompagni was a leading film company world wide. Anker Kirkeby on the other hand had opportunity to write about the project in his paper. On March 24th 1913 he wrote in a large article: ''Politiken has taken initiative in the recording of a historical film, in which posterity will find living portraits of famous Danes of our time [.] The historical film is donated to the State to form the backbone of a historical film museum."

April 9th, 1913 Kirkeby gave a vivid description of the "filming of the 'Historical Film'". From the article it is evident that quite a bit of directing was involved in these non-fictional films. "'- Bravo, shouts the film director. - Now we will go to the machine room. [.] The managing director is again placed in front of the camera and the cinematographer asks him to smile.' The result can be seen in film number 56 'Director Ivar Knudsen on a Trial Run on Board a Diesel Ship."

At a meeting April 9th, which is described in an article by Kirkeby April 10th, the motion pictures found a home at the Royal Library: "Director Ole Olsen and Court Photographer Elfelt donated their historical films. Politiken gave its collection of portraits of famous men in moving images."

The core of the archive, the seventy films now available, were not gathered yet at this time. It is also evident that some films expected to enter the archive never were handed over, just as Kirkeby's description of the films in the archive are not entirely congruent with the archive as it survives.

The documentary value of the films should be questioned, when one considers that Anker Kirkeby acted in the films. The films have been used as documentation of events, however, it should not be overlooked that they also have more fictitious, or cinematographic, traits.

Film number 1, Photographing the Royal Family, shows us not only the royal family, but also how they could act up in front of the camera. Also, several films show us how the event taking place in some cases must compete with the camera as the main attraction. Film 39, The Typographer Strike, is in a sense more a film about people being filmed than a film about a strike.

D. Yde-Andersen writes that the films with Georg Brandes, C. Th. Zahle and possibly also Olaf Poulsen were shot in a studio. The titles .at the University, .in the Editorial Office. and .in his Dressing Room at the Royal Theatre are therefore misleading.

People were, then as now, aware of the presence of the camera, and acted accordingly. In A Tour of Copenhagen the fight looks staged, and if Kristian Zahrtmann and Olaf Poulsen seem a bit theatrical in their appearance, it is because they are acting themselves in front of the camera.

One may say that the films are, in a sense, true documentaries. They show how people behaved in front of a camera, how they wanted to be seen, and how one wanted to document the time. This is an important aspect of the films, which brings evidence of a lost time. The films show us what the world looked like, what people saw, how they saw it and how they wanted us to see their world.

Esben Krohn

DVD Features

  • 70 short films (1899-1912), 225'
  • Chapter selection
  • Introductions for each film
  • 24 pages booklet by Thomas Christensen and Esben Krohn

Edited by: Danish Film Institute & Cinematheque
DVD Authoring: Steve Allen
DVD Supervision: Thomas Christensen

TV Format Original format Audio format Language Subtitles Region code
4:3 (PAL)
Dolby Digital 2.0
Danish Intertitles
All Regions


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