Henning Carlsen

Henning Carlsen (4 June 1927 – 30 May 2014) was a Danish film director, screenwriter, and producer most noted for his documentaries and his contributions to the style of cinéma vérité.[1] Carlsen's 1966 social-realistic drama Hunger (Sult) was nominated for the Palme D'Or and won the Bodil Award for Best Danish Film. Carlsen also won the Bodil Award the following year for the comedy People Meet and Sweet Music Fills the Heart. Acting as his own producer since 1960, Carlsen has directed more than 25 films, 19 for which he wrote the screenplay. In 2006, he received the Golden Swan Lifetime Achievement Award at the Copenhagen International Film Festival.[2]

Henning Carlsen
Born(1927-06-04)4 June 1927
Ålborg, Denmark
Died30 May 2014(2014-05-30) (aged 86)
Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Director
  • Screenwriter
  • Producer
Years active1950–2014
AwardsBodil Award
1966 Sult
1967 Mennesker mødes og sød musik opstår i hjertet

Honorary Robert
2012 Sult

Early life

Carlsen was born on 4 June 1927 in Aalborg, Denmark. In 1948, Carlsen became an assistant director at Minerva Film where he received on-the-job training. He worked at Minerva until 1953 when he shifted to Nordisk Film.


Carlsen began by writing and directing short documentaries and industry films, and with this background he flourished in the production of the cinema verite style.[3] His documentary trilogy, De Gamle (The Elderly – 1961)), Familiebilleder (Family pictures- 1964) and Ung (Youth – 1965), created a classic portrait of 1960s Denmark as the nation revolutionized and transformed into a modern welfare society[4][5] Especially noted was Carlsen's technique of rhythmic editing in De Gamle which produced a lyrical portrait of retirees without any needed commentary.[4]

In 1962, Carlsen continued in cinema verite style with his first feature film: the harsh social drama Dilemma, released as A World of Strangers in the UK due to a naming conflict. Based upon the Nadine Gordimer's 1958 novel about apartheid, the movie was shot covertly on location in South Africa through Carlsen's use of a hidden camera.[5] He followed this effort with the 1966 drama Hunger (Sult) based upon the autobiographical novel of Norwegian author Knut Hamsun. With its stark focus on a life of poverty and desperation, the film is considered a masterpiece of social realism and is one of the ten films listed in Denmark's cultural canon by the Danish Ministry of Culture.[6] Carlsen was nominated for the Palme D'Or and won the Bodil Award for Best Danish Film.

The following year, Carlsen changed pace from his realistic dramas and made the comedy People Meet and Sweet Music Fills the Heart (Mennesker mødes og sød musik opstår i hjertet) based on the work of Jens August Schade. Again, he was awarded the Bodil Award for Best Danish Film. During his career, Carlsen has maintained interest in popular comedies with such films as Oh, to Be on the Bandwagon! (Man sku være noget ved musikken), in collaboration with Benny Andersen, and I Wonder Who's Kissing You Now?. In 1967, Carlsen returned to the same format of social realism he used in Sult with the drama We are All Demons (Klaubauterman), a story based upon a novel by Axel Sandemose.

In 1986, Carlsen filmed the international production Wolf at the Door starring Donald Sutherland. During his career, Carlsen has written 19 films and directed 21. He has also directed for both theater and television. Since 1966, Carlsen has been a teacher and member of the advisory council for the National Film School in Denmark. In 2006, Carlsen was the recipient of the Golden Swan Lifetime Achievement Award at the Copenhagen Film Festival.[2]

In 2012 Carlsen received an honorary Robert Award for his body of work.[7] He also released his film, Memoria de Mis Putas Tristes (Memories of My Melancholy Whores), adapted from the 2004 novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.[8]


Carlsen has written two books. The first, Mit livs fortrængninger (English: My Life's Forgettings), is an autobiography published in 1998 in Danish. Flyvske billeder (English: Images in Flight) is a history of the realisation of film and flight from the perspective of human development.[9]

Personal life

Carlsen Henning was married the first time to Hjørdis Wirth Jensen. In 1975 he married a second time with film consultant Else Heidary. He died at the age of 86 on 30 May 2014.[10]


YearOriginal TitleEnglish TitleNotes
2012Memoria de mis putas tristesMemories of My Melancholy Whores
1998I Wonder Who's Kissing You NowI Wonder Who's Kissing You Now
1995PanTwo Green Feathers
1986OviriThe Wolf at the Door
1982Pengene eller livetYour Money or Your Life
1978Hør, var der ikke en som lo?Did Somebody Laugh?
1975Da Svante forsvandtWhen Svante Disappeared
1975En Lykkelig skilsmisseA Happy Divorce
1972Man sku være noget ved musikkenOh, to Be on the Bandwagon!Entered into the 22nd Berlin International Film Festival
1971Er i bange?Are You Afraid?
1969KlabautermannenWe Are All DemonsEntered into the 19th Berlin International Film Festival
1967Mennesker mødes og sød musik opstår i hjertetPeople Meet and Sweet Music Fills the HeartBodil Award for Best Danish Film
1966SultHungerBodil Award for Best Danish Film
1965KattornaThe Cats
1964FamilebillederFamily Pictures
1963Hvad med os?How About Us?
1962DilemmaA World of StrangersGrand Prize at Mannheim-Heidelberg International Filmfestival
1961De GamleThe Elderly
1960Souvenirs from SwedenSouvenirs from Sweden
1959Et Knudeproblem
1958CyklistenThe Bicyclist
1950CivilforsvaretThe Civil Defense


  1. Hjort, Mette & Ib Bondebjerg, The Danish Directors, Intellect Books, (2001) 228pg, p42 ISBN 1-84150-841-1
  2. "Hæder til Henning Carlsen", DR, dr.dk news, 29 August 2006, retrieved 16 June 2009
  3. Nissen, Dan 100 Års Dansk Film, Rosinante, (2001) 445pg, p218 ISBN 87-621-0157-9
  4. (Nissen, 2001 & p219)
  5. (Hjort 2001, p. 42)
  6. Kulturkanon Archived 2012-05-26 at Archive.today, Danish Ministry of Culture, www.kulturkanon.kum.dk, retrieved February 12, 2008
  7. Roxborough, Scott (February 6, 2012). "Lars von Trier's 'Melancholia' Sweeps Danish Film Academy Awards". The Hollywood Reporter.
  8. "Tiene "Memoria de mis putas tristes" buen recibimiento en Málaga" (in Spanish). Provincia. 24 April 2012. Retrieved 21 May 2012.
  9. "Forspil til film og flyver". Dagbladet Information (in Danish). 30 November 2000. Retrieved 21 May 2012.
  10. ritzau (30 May 2014). "Kendt dansk filminstruktør er død" (in Danish). Politiken. Retrieved May 31, 2014.

Further reading

Wakeman, John. "World Film Directors, Volume Two, 1945–1985". Pages 180–184. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1988. ISBN 978-0-8242-0757-1

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