advertisement

Books

History & Philosophy -- A Kierkegaard Anthology, edited by Robert Bretall (Princeton University Press), explores the work of the Copenhagen-born philosopher who developed an almost-pathological sense of involvement in theology. A representative selection of some of his more significant works is included.

Copenhagen, A Historical Guide, by Torben Ejlersen (published by Høst & Søn in Denmark, and available at most bookstores there), an 88-page guide, takes you on a brief tour of the city that began as a ferry landing and became one of the most important capitals of Europe.

Of Danish Ways, written by two Danish-Americans, Ingeborg S. MacHiffic and Margaret A. Nielsen (Harper & Row, 1984), is a delightful account of this land and its people. It has a little bit of everything: history, social consciousness, customs, food, handicrafts, art, music, and theater.

Biography & Literature -- Andersen's Fairy Tales, by H. C. Andersen (New American Library), and The Complete Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales (Crown) are anthologies that include all of his most important works, such as The Little Mermaid, The Tinderbox, and The Princess and the Pea.

Danish Literature: A Short Critical Guide, by Paul Borum (Nordic Books), is a well-written review that explores Danish literature from the Middle Ages to the 1970s.

Out of Africa (Modern Library), Letters from Africa (University of Chicago Press), and Seven Gothic Tales (Random House) are all by Karen Blixen (who wrote under the name Isak Dinesen), one of the major authors of the 20th century, who gained renewed fame with the release of the 1985 movie Out of Africa, with Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. Isak Dinesen, by Judith Thurman (St. Martin's Press), chronicles Blixen's amazing life from an unhappy childhood in Denmark to marriage to Baron Blixen to immigration to Kenya to her passionate love affair with Denys Finch Hatton.

Films

Basically controlled by the state through the Danish Film Institute, founded in 1972, Danish cinema still enjoys international renown. Most movies coming out of Denmark today deal with social realism, in both comedy and drama, as well as films for children and a series of documentaries, which have received many awards at international film festivals.

In spite of this acclaim, the Golden Age of Danish cinema was before 1914. Denmark was one of the major European centers of film production, giving the world such stars as Asta Nielson and Valdemar Psilander. The coming of World War I and the rapidly growing American film industry sent the Danish film industry into decline.

Denmark gave the world one truly great director in the 1920s, Carl Dreyer, who was born in 1889. His greatest films include Blades of Leaves from Satan's Book in 1920 and The Parson's Widow in 1921. His masterpiece, La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc, shot in France and released in 1928, was filmed almost entirely in close-ups. The lyric power of that film had been rarely achieved in cinema.

In the postmillennium Per Fly achieved international acclaim with a trio of movies -- The Bench in 2000, Inheritance in 2003, and Manslaughter in 2005. These films depicted three distinct social classes in Denmark. Suzanne Bier's After the Wedding (2006) was nominated for an Oscar as Best Foreign Language Film.

Lars von Trier is a bit of an oddity in the history of Danish cinema. He became known in the 1990s when he was nominated for numerous awards for such films as Europa, Breaking the Waves, The Idiots, and Dancer in the Dark. He shocked the film world when his company, Zentropa, became the world's first mainstream film company to produce hard-core porn, including the notorious Constance in 1998 and much later All About Anna in 2005. These films were made for a primarily female audience, and became wildly successful across the continent.

In a nonporno film, Nicole Kidman starred in von Trier's Dogville in 2003. This was a provocative stylistic experiment filmed on a black sound stage. Von Trier has not been successful in his latest films, leading one critic to note that "the film party of the '90s has ended for him."

Music

Lurs, long bronze trumpets, dating from the Bronze Age, have been excavated in Denmark. They are the oldest musical relics found on the continent. With the coming of Christianity in the 9th century, church music was the dominant note.

Beginning with the Reformation in the 16th century, the royal court became the center of music. Under the reign of Christian IV (1577-1648), some of the greatest musicians in Europe visited the Danish court.

Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1707) composed organ and instrumental music and became a major musical influence in North Europe.

Danish music came into its own during the middle of the 1800s, as such great composers arose as Niels Wilhelm Gade (1817-90). His works included symphonies, a violin concerto, piano and organ compositions, and operas.

Denmark's greatest composer came along in the works of Carl August Nielsen (1865-1931), who developed a unique polytonal and contrapuntal musical form. Some of his most famous operas include Saul og David in 1903 and Maskerade in 1906.

In the countryside, Danish folk music prevailed. It was most often dominated by a fiddle player and an accordion duo. Unlike most Nordic countries, Denmark still uses the guitar prominently in its folk music.

Today rock and pop bands rule the night in the underground cellars of big cities in Denmark, including Copenhagen and Århus. Formerly known as Disneyland After Dark, rockers D-A-D have found many international fans with such recordings as "Sleeping My Day Away." Currently, the major bands in Denmark are garage rockers such as The Raveonettes.

Enjoying the most popularity is the band Nephew, which mixes both Danish and English lyrics. Their lead singer, Simon Kvamm, is quite charismatic and is one of the biggest rock stars in Denmark.

You can often see the biggest names in music displaying their talents at the annual Roskilde Festival.

In pop music, the group Aqua is the most celebrated in Denmark, enjoying such worldwide hits as "Turn Back Time," "Doctor Jones," and "Barbie Girl."

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.