The Danish Poet (or Den danske dikteren in Norway) is an animated short film released in 2006. It was written, animated, and directed by the Canadian filmmaker Torill Kove. The film was highly revered, winning both the Academy Award and Genie Award for best animated short film. The film follows a Danish poet named Kasper who travels to Norway to meet his favorite author and along the way falls in love with the daughter of a local farmer.
The story is the retelling of the classic romantic tragedy: a heartfelt man in love with a woman married to another man. The story, which has been told countless times over, still retains its potency. The film switches between lighthearted and dramatic scenes before ultimately concluding with an expectedly happy ending. It unmercifully tugs at your heartstrings and then eases the tension through cheerful little bits of clever comedy. The story plays out much like a fairy tale and demonstrates a keen, childlike sense of imagination. The film is almost entirely plot-driven, never relying on eye-candy to help its way along. The story stands on its own as a gripping tale of love and loss and at the end, fills in all the loose gaps with relative ease.
The animation is simplistic at best, but works in magnificent ways for this film. In today’s animation market, over-fluxed by high budgets and overwhelmingly real CGI, Danish Poet is a rebellious slice of old-school, two-dimensional goodness. The backgrounds, hand-painted by a local Montreal artist, are intrinsic and unassuming. They deliberately add emphasis to whatever motions are being played out on the screen. The silly, almost carefree style of the animation is a humor unto itself. Many times, there are devious little gags being played out in the backdrops that viewers may only catch after numerous viewings. This adds a sense of enjoyment when viewing this film for a second or even third time.
The music in the film acts as a faithful counterpart to the simplistic animation style. Much of it consists of only a few instruments playing distinctly separate melody lines to help complement the myriad of emotions felt through the course of the film. No percussion instruments of any kind are used in any of the songs in the film—it’s one of those simple little variables that adds that much more to the atmosphere and feeling of a movie. The soundtrack reflects the regional setting of the story quite fittingly in a flavorful blend of smooth woodwinds intertwined behind mellifluous piano lines.
The narration of the story, voiced by Liv Ullmann, is one of the defining qualities in the film. Her ethereal tone and savory accent add grace and elegance to the story. Her mellow voice fits befittingly over the animation. After the film’s release, director Torill Kove stated that Ullman’s voice was “just right.”
In the end, The Danish Poet could easily be coined as a modern day fairy tale. It’s imaginative and awe-inspiring in its vivid simplicity and masterful storytelling. In an oversaturated market, it stands as a fresh, outlandish, and highly moving piece of film.