Daily Short: Torill Kove’s The Danish Poet

7 Oct

“Ingeborg, you changed my life

Ingeborg, please be my wife. ”

Perhaps it seems a bit small-minded to kick off this feature with two consecutive and recent Oscar-winners. Yet I think that for many people, myself included, the Academy Awards for short film are one of the better ways to initially discover the world of shorts. Now that they’re shown in theaters every year, thanks to Shorts International, they’ve become some of the only short films available to audiences on the big screen outside of a festival setting. There’s always the intrusion of some unfortunate “Oscar bait” material, but most of the nominees tend to be inspired, high-quality work.

That’s certainly the case for 2007’s animated winner, The Danish Poet. Relaxed and charming, this Norwegian-Canadian co-production is a nice reminder of the simple joy that can be offered by animation, short cinema, and life itself. Directed and animated by the Norwegian-born Canadian Torill Kove and narrated by Liv Ullman, this is a tale of how chance and coincidence can lead down a meandering road to unexpected love. The hand-drawn animation is calm and whimsical, in a good way. The little details shine, from Ingeborg’s voluminous hair to the backpackers and rowdy drinkers on the ferry to Norway.

The script is wonderful as well, telling the story in a unassumingly pleasant tone with such little quips as “Perhaps we’re all originally from Denmark.” The narrative is surprisingly grand in its scope, opening with discussion of abstract genetics and following a long series of events in multiple countries that even involve Nobel-Prize-winning Norwegian author Sigrid Undset. Yet instead of seeming so large, this short diminishes the distances between generations and nations, reminding us of how small a world it really is. Liv Ullman’s pitch-perfect narration is the glue that holds this tone together, bringing us so close to these characters that we feel like hopping on a Norway-bound jet to find some quiet love and poetry of our own.

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