Silent screen actress Asta Nielsen was renowned worldwide. Considered “the most fascinating personality of the primitive era,” she made over seventy films in her 22-year career. Prior to her silver screen debut in 1910’s Afgrunden, the Denmark born actress worked in the theater for ten years. She made Afgrunden against the advice of her theatrical peers, but it earned her immediate recognition for her naturalistic, subtle style that was in direct contrast to the broader acting style affected by most silent film performers. Soon after the film’s release, she received a contract offer from a German film company. Three years later she became a world-renowned star. Part of Nielsen’s naturalness on film came from her ability to ‘live herself into’ her characters. In addition to acting, she also participated in other aspects of filmmaking including the selection of locales, props, character development, casting, costuming, and publicity. While most of her films were melodramas… read more
Asta's Hamlet is absolutely stunning. It's easy to see that it was more than avant-garde for its time (especially by twisting Shakespeare's work and squeezing out new meanings), but looking back at the way she chose to play you can feel she had the very essence of screen acting in her grasp. Unfortunately (or fortunately if we're looking for praise here!), her natural and subtle take on the role is unbalanced by the obsolete, theatrical approach of most of the cast members. Thus, I highly recommend Nielsen's Hamlet. The tinted film, the surreal atmosphere, I never though I could enjoy such an adaptation of Shakespeare - without hearing one single word.