Henning Carlsen, director of Hunger, dies at 86
by Jorn Rossing Jensen
- Originally a documentary filmmaker, the Danish director concluded his career with an adaptation of García Márquez’s Memories of My Melancholy Whores
Danish director Henning Carlsen, whose Hunger (1966) garnered Sweden’s Per Oscarsson a Best Actor Award at Cannes, died on Friday (30 May) in Copenhagen, three days before his 87th birthday. Credited for 36 documentaries and 17 features, Carlsen had received Lifetime Achievement Awards both from the Danish Film Academy and from the Copenhagen International Film Festival.
“All creative work on this film has been a delight,” he wrote about his last feature, Memories of My Melancholy Whores [+see also:
film profile] (2011), adapted from Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez’s novel and scripted by French writer Jean-Claude Carrière (who also wrote his 1986 title Oviri).
The film, about a 90-year-old reporter whose birthday present to himself is “a night of wild love with an adolescent virgin”, was compared by the filmmaker himself to Hunger, based on Norwegian author Knut Hamsun’s novel. “Both main characters are intellectual writers, bachelors, who fall in love far from their daily routines. Both are a bit mad.”
Carlsen started out as an assistant to Danish director Theodor Christensen, studied in Paris (1955), and then began making shorts and documentaries, including the 1961-1965 trilogy of contemporary life in Denmark, Old People, Family Pictures and Young.
His first feature, Dilemma (1962), based on South African author Nadine Gordimer’s novel, caused a diplomatic crisis because of its anti-apartheid attitude; Hunger turned out to be his international break, followed by his portrayal of French painter Paul Gauguin in Oviri and another Hamsun adaptation, Pan (Two Green Feathers) in 1995.
Also a director for stage and television, and a lecturer at the Danish National Film School, Carlsen was the manager of Copenhagen’s Dagmar Cinema from 1968-1981. His autobiography, The Repressions of My life, was published in 1998.