Nils Malmros (b. 1944)

Danish director Nils Malmros is known for his authentic depictions of the immediate environment of especially children and young adults. His aptitude for capturing the precise tone of language and physical surroundings according to his own recollection is noteworthy.

Faroe stamp with still from Nils Malmros' film Barbara, set in the Faroe Islands. On the still is a person rowing a small boat.
Faroe stamp with still from Nils Malmros' film Barbara, set in the Faroe Islands. Issued by Postverk Føroya - Philatelic Office (public domain)

The Danish film director and physician Nils Malmros was born in Aarhus in 1944. Almost all his films are based on autobiographical material, but his stylistic inspiration is the French New Wave, especially film director François Truffaut.

Lars-Ole 5c (1973), Drenge (Boys, 1977) and Kundskabens træ (1981) (Tree of knowledge) depict middle-class childhood in the Danish city of Aarhus in the 1950s and 60s. Malmros’ speciality is an almost lyrical historical atmosphere, achieved by the use of children with no acting experience and authentic dialect and locations.

Århus by night (1989), At kende sandheden (2002) (Facing the truth) and Kærestesorger (Aching Hearts, 2009) were based on Malmros’ memories of the betrayals, flaws and deficiencies accompanying adult life.

Skønheden og udyret (1983) (Beauty and the beast) and Kærlighedens smerte (1992) (Pain of love) both deal with the fragile first love of a young girl and the flawed interpretations made by adults.

His Barbara (1997), based on Jørgen-Franz Jacobsen’s novel of the same title (1939), is set in the Faroe Islands, the landscape lending some of its natural unsteadiness to the uncontrollable temper of the central character.

Sorg og glæde (Sorrow and Joy, 2013) is an autobiographical portrayal of the tragedy Malmros and his wife went through as she killed their daughter while suffering from postnatal depression.


Further reading:

  • J. Sundholm et al., Historical Dictionary of Scandinavian Cinema. (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2012).
  • Det Danske Filminstitut [The Danish Film Institute], Nils Malmros