“In terms of… expression and versatility I am nothing compared to her”
Greta Garbo

‘A single tear from Nielsen, a single flicker of her mouth, says more than any superimposed effects of suffering,’ said German director Leopold Jessner. ‘She was and is the great actress, the canvas that makes dignity visible.’ Almost an overnight success when she appeared in 1910’s melodrama The Abyss as a young woman torn between passion and duty, Nielsen soon became Europe’s greatest film star – though her transgressive films would be censored in the US. She was widely celebrated for the emotional depth and sensuality she could convey with her modern, naturalist style and her deft use of gesture, whether in comedy or tragedy. This month we’ll explore her first films, made in Denmark and Germany, which reveal her to be a screen actress of boundless range, with unique sensitivity and unforgettably hypnotic eyes.

Pamela Hutchinson

ABC of Asta Nielsen

Find out more about this pioneering silent star in this lecture and discussion.

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Abyss + The ABC of Love

Asta Nielsen hypnotises and enchants in this androgynous romcom.

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Abyss + The ABC of Love + intro by season curator Pamela Hutchinson

Asta Nielsen hypnotises and enchants in this androgynous romcom.

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Zapata’s Gang + The Eskimo Baby

Nielsen flexes her funny bone in two sharp comedies.

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Black Dream

A tragic love-triangle melodrama fit for the supreme Danish diva.

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Dora Brandes

Nielsen plays two tragic romantic heroines, in this melodramatic double-bill.

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Dora Brandes + intro

Nielsen plays two tragic romantic heroines, in this melodramatic double-bill.

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Queen of the Stock Exchange + The Guinea Pig

Two tomboyish roles for Nielsen, as a mine owner and a naughty schoolgirl.

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Towards the Light + Asta Nielsen

Nielsen in her final Danish film, and reflecting on her career later in life.

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Coming in part two in March: In the Eyes of the Law, Hamlet, The Joyless Street and more...