Living with Danish Celebrities
Perhaps the most impressive feature of Danish life that I have experienced during my stay here is the accessibility of the more famous Danes. One night I sat in a small Danish rock club, expecting an entertaining but low-key show. As the evening progressed, the Dane I attended the concert with turned to me, beaming and excited, whispering that the inconspicuous woman sitting at the table next to me was one of the most famous female rock singers in Denmark. He took care to point out that in Denmark citizens respect privacy and allow stars to carry out a "normal" life. I nodded my agreement, proclaiming that if we had been in the US, fans would have mobbed the singer throughout the night, asking for autographs or just the pleasure of talking to her; despite her clear desire to spend time unnoticed and chatting with friends. What I didn't admit, of course, was the American in me automatically wanted to establish some connection with the celebrity, if for no other reason than to tell my friends about. Instead I relaxed and enjoyed the rest of the show, including the female singer, who joined the band during their encore, her voice echoing Janis Joplin.
Even more remarkable than this chance witnessing of the Danish respect of personal space was the luck I had to interview Henning Carlsen, an aging but still essential Danish film director. I simply emailed Mr. Carlsen using the address listed in the Danish black book of film made available by the government, requesting the opportunity to speak to him for a research paper I was writing about the current state of film in Denmark. Although I never expected a positive response, Mr. Carlsen seemed an ideal choice for an interview due to his role as one of the original advisors to the Danish Film Institute, the government organization that provides financial backing for movies produced by Danes. Furthermore, he founded the European Film College, Denmark's only film school besides the National Film School, and he once ran the Dagmar, a cozy movie theater in central Copenhagen. His involvement in the filmmaking industry began almost fifty years ago and includes both Danish and English language features; a tradition guaranteed to provide insight beyond the Dogme films that the current literature about Danish films focuses on.
If I had been the average college student in the United States, emailing a director with a resume comparable to Mr. Carlsen's, the possibility of receiving any reply, even a standard rejection, would have been slim to none (in part because his personal email would have been more difficult to find in the first place;...