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As the country who gave us Lars von Trier, Mads Mikkelsen, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (raise your hand if you rooted for Jamie Lannister!), it’s no wonder that Denmark has produced some of the best indie films the world has ever seen. They may not have followed the “blockbuster” recipe, they may not have won a lot of prizes, but they sure did win the hearts of millions of movie geeks around the world.
Now, believe it or not, if you want to learn Danish or you already are in the process of it, watching Danish films can get you closer to your goal. As both a movie geek and language learner, I can confirm that. Watching films in the language you want to learn helps your brain understand that this is not something you do because you have to, but because it’s fun and you genuinely enjoy it. Your brain will associate an activity you enjoy – watching films – with the language you want to learn – Danish – and it will open up like a flower making information retention much easier.
So if you want to train your ears for the Danish language and indulge yourself with some high-quality cinema, watching these six Danish films is the best way to enjoy a lazy weekend while also being productive.
Grab the popcorn and enjoy!
6. Der kommer en dag (2016) (The Day Will Come)
Inspired by true events, the first movie on our list is not for the tender-hearted. The year is 1967 and two inseparable brothers, Elmer and Erik – are taken from their dying mother and put in the Gudbjerg Home for Boys, a real-life children’s home that still exists today in Denmark. Google “Godhavn Boys’ Home” to find out the whole story behind it (if you haven’t heard about it already).
The events that follow are distressing, to say the least. The boys discover very quickly that Gudbjerg is run by Heck (Lars Mikkelsen), a cruel headmaster who is sacredly devoted to both physical and mental punishments as a way of instilling discipline in children. From public humiliation to hard physical labor – the boys from Gudbjerg are subject to every punishment possible in order to later become obedient citizens.
Elmer and Erik try to become “invisible”, but that doesn’t spare them from being bullied by some of the older boys. Are they gonna find salvation? Watch it and find out.
5. Adams Æbler (2005) (Adam’s Apples)
Before becoming Le Chiffre, Hannibal, and Kaecilius, Mads Mikkelsen was kept secret by the Danes in all these great indie films that only diehard knew about. “Adams Æbler”, a film about a neo-nazi sentenced to community service at a church, is one of them.
In this one, Mikkelsen plays the role of an eternally optimistic priest who sees the world through rose-colored glasses and is happy to take on the new task of helping Adam, a psychotic neo-Nazi, to complete his rehabilitation. In order to move forward with his goal, Adam must select a task, so he decides to bake an apple pie as a way of mocking the priest. Little did he know how difficult baking the pie will actually become…
“Adams Æbler” is a successful combination of black humor and drama guaranteed to keep you glued to the screen.
4. Efter brylluppet (2006) (After the Wedding)
Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year in 2007 (lost the race to the German masterpiece “Das Leben der Anderen”), “Efter brylluppet” tells the story of Jacob, the manager of an Indian orphanage that faces bankruptcy. With very few people to help him, Jacob works hard to keep the orphanage afloat, but fate doesn’t seem to favor him.
Luckily, before long, Jacob receives an interesting offer: a businessman will donate $4 million for the orphanage with one condition: to attend his daughter’s wedding in Denmark. Jacob accepts the deal, but soon discovers that the event will change both his future and past forever. How? You’ll have to find out for yourself.
This is only the second movie in the list blessed with the presence of Mads Mikkelsen, but hang in there! There’s more on the way.
3. Hævnen (2010) (In a Better World)
Anton, a Danish doctor who commutes between his home in Denmark and an African refugee camp, is separated from his wife with whom he has two young sons. Their older son, Elias, is bullied at school until Christian, the new boy in town, comes to his rescue by threatening the bully with a knife. Both Christian and Elias lie about the incident to the police and their parents.
Elias and Christian quickly form a strong bond, but when Christian involves Elias in a dangerous act of revenge, their lives are put in danger and their friendship is tested.
Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year in 2011 (already convinced, aren’t you?), “Hævnen” is a story about friendship, choices, revenge, forgiveness and the consequences of our actions. There’s no way you won’t find yourself in it.
2. En kongelig affære (2012) (A Royal Affair)
I always like to save the best for the last, so here are two of my favorite films of all time: “En kongelig affære” and “Jagten”. Both incredible, both featuring Mads Mikkelsen.
One of the best films of Alicia Vikander since before she became a huge Hollywood sensation, “En kongelig affære” is about the young British Princess Caroline who is married to the mad King Christian VII of Denmark. As you may expect, Caroline’s life is far for happy so she soon finds love and comfort in Dr. Johann Struensee’s arms, her husband’s companion and a man of the Enlightenment.
The two lovers use their influence on King Christian to start a revolution that will change the nation forever. But will this be in their own best interest? Believe me, you absolutely have to watch this. Not only that this film was also nominated for an Oscar, but the costume design and the acting are absolutely amazing. Time watching it will not be time wasted.
1. Jagten (2012) (The Hunt)
“Jagten” was nominated for both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe in 2014. Unfortunately, it lost them both to an equally magnificent piece of work: “La grande bellezza” by Italian genius filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino.
The film tells the story of Lucas, a kindergarten teacher who lives a lonely existence while also struggling over his son’s custody. His life slowly seems to get better when he finds love and receives good news from his teenage son. However, his happiness is about to be brutally shattered by an innocent little lie one of his students tells about him. And thus the hunt begins. Before Lucas can understand the consequences, he becomes the outcast of the town.
Having the highest IMDb rating on the list and special place in my heart, I can guarantee you will love this Danish masterpiece. It’s sublime, absolutely heart-wrenching and it will remain imprinted in your mind and soul forever. Get ready for an avalanche of feelings with this one!
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