Bille August (b. 1948)

Bille August is a Danish filmmaker in the realist tradition, and a winner of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 1988 for Pelle Erobreren (Pelle the Conqueror). He created a cinematic adaptation of Ingmar Bergman’s Den goda viljan (Best Intentions, 1992) and of Peter Høeg’s thriller Frøken Smillas fornemmelse for sne (Smilla’s Sense of Snow, 1997).

2019.08.05 | Linda Haverty Rugg

Danish film director Bille August during the 2008 film festival 'Nordiska Filmdagar' (Nordic Film Days) in Helsingborg, Sweden. Photo: Jan Kivisaar (CC BY 3.0)

The Danish filmmaker Bille August was born in Brede, Denmark, in 1948. His beautiful and moving film Pelle Erobreren (Pelle the Conqueror, 1987), based on an epic novel by Martin Andersen Nexø, depicted the hardships of nineteenth-century migrant farm labourers in Denmark. The film was awarded an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 1988. Other internationally noted works include an adaptation of Ingmar Bergman’s autobiographical Den goda viljan (The Best Intentions, 1992), a film version of Peter Høeg’s thriller Frøken Smillas fornemmelse for sne (Smilla’s Sense of Snow, 1997), and Tro, håb og kærlighed (Twist and Shout, 1984). In contrast to the work of his ‘Dogme’ contemporaries, August often works with a highly artistic palette on an epic scale, but he can also focus on the intimate, as in his depiction of Alzheimer’s in En sång för Martin (A Song for Martin, 2001). 

Further reading:

J. Sundholm et al., Historical Dictionary of Scandinavian Cinema (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2012).

Biography, Linda Haverty Rugg, The arts