My favorite things Danish

1. Movie: A strong category for this country.  Babette’s Feast used to be one of my favorite movies, though it now strikes me as sentimental.  I much prefer The Celebration, or the recent After the WeddingThe Best Intentions, with a Bergman screenplay, is directed by Dane Billie August.  Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc is technically a French movie but the director is Danish, in any case it is one of cinema’s greatest achievements.  Ordet has splendid shots but I can’t bear the ending.  I don’t rate Lars von Trier with these other creators though I did like his recent The Boss of it All, a study in the social construction of leadership.

2. Short story: "The Caryatids, An Unfinished Tale," by Karen Blixen [Isak Dinesen], in Last Tales.  This one shows the influence of the now-sadly-taken-for-granted Hans Christian Andersen; read it.

3. Novel: Smilla’s Sense of Snow, by Peter Hoeg; lovely and mysterious, yet driven by plot.  His History of Danish Dreams I find too baroque.

4. Composer: Poul Ruders, one of the most listenable contemporary composers, writes compelling melodies and offers a broad palate of sound colors.  I most prefer his Variations on a Theme by Paganini, Concerto in Pieces, the guitar music, Tundra, and Gong.  His major influences are Brahms, Berg, Sibelius, and Hindemith.  I’ll buy anything by him, though I’ve never much enjoyed his operas.

5. Popular music: Help!

6. Philosopher: Kierkegaard’s Either/Or is the place to start, and don’t skip over "Diary of a Seducer" or the discussion of Don Giovanni.  There are few philosophers who think more like an economist, or who use more metaphors from economic life.

7. Painting: Danish Impressionism is one of the most underrated fields in art, noting that the subtle textures and colors do not reproduce well on the web.  Try this picture.  Here is a nice landscape, here is a nice door.  This one is lots of fun, too.


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