Marie Kroyer

Life as an early-20th-century artist's muse proves far less pleasant than it sounds in "Marie Kroyer," an exquisite-looking but low-pulse period drama that reps helmer Bille August's first Danish pic in 25 years.

With: Birgitte Hjort Sorensen, Soren Saetter-Lassen, Sverrir Gudnason. (Danish, Swedish dialogue)

Life as an early-20th-century artist’s muse proves far less pleasant than it sounds in “Marie Kroyer,” an exquisite-looking but low-pulse period drama that reps helmer Bille August’s first Danish pic in 25 years. Set during the era when the title figure was regarded as the most beautiful woman in Denmark, this depiction of her failing marriage to mentally ill painter P.S. Kroyer, as well as her scandalous affair with Swedish composer Hugo Alfven, is a treat for the eyes that never catches emotional fire. Still, August’s reputation and the tastefully upholstered subject matter could pique fest and distributor interest offshore.

In remote Skagen, a fishing village at the northernmost tip of Denmark, numerous artists gather, attracted by the exceptional light and natural scenery. Among them: renowned painter P.S. Kroyer (Soren Saetter-Lassen, lively), known as Soren, and his wife, Marie (Birgitte Hjort Sorensen, an attractive clotheshorse), 16 years his junior and a painter herself. While Soren works on a grand scale, Marie daubs on canvases barely larger than a book.

Marie finds little time to develop her own talent since she must serve as her husband’s favorite model and sometime nurse, as well as homemaker and caring mother to their young daughter, Vibeke. Moreover, Soren casually and cruelly denigrates her work, destroying her dream of a happy life among mutually supportive artists.

Exhausted by Soren’s manic episodes and unable to find comfort in her painting, Marie visits Sweden, where the dashing looks, admiring words and sexual prowess of composer Alfven (Sverrir Gudnason, bland) sweep her off her feet. Since the possessive Soren won’t agree to a divorce, the lovers try a menage a trois in Skagen that soon leads to disaster. But when Marie abandons her life and social status in Denmark to follow her love to his native land, she discovers that Danish laws are not kind to independent-minded women.

As stodgily scripted by Peter Asmussen, the film deals with only a small portion of Marie Kroyer’s life and fudges the dates of actual events; nor does it help that, instead of giving Marie a personality, it grants her only a simple learning curves vis a vis men and her own happiness. Since the real Marie went on to marry again and established a reputation as an interior designer, it seems odd that the film ends on a rather unsatisfactory note, without any onscreen explanation about her future.

By contrast, the stellar craft package pays careful attention to the historical accuracy of visual detail, from costumes to interiors to street scenes. As befits the Skagen setting, talented lenser Dirk Bruel celebrates the Nordic light wherever possible. The shadowed period interiors seem to have been lit only by sources visible in the frame, and many of the exterior compositions echo paintings by the Skagen group and the French impressionists. Stefan Nilsson’s simple piano-and-strings score fits well with the classical music excerpts, including those by Alfven.

The artists’ colony in Skagen was also the subject of the 1997 Swedish pic “Hip Hip Hurrah,” helmed by Kjell Grede.

Popular on Variety

Marie Kroyer


Production: A SF Film production in co-production with AB Svensk Filmindustri, Film i Vast, Nordisk Film Shortcut with support from TV2 Denmark, DFI, SFI, Nordisk Film and TV Fund, Filmfyn. (International sales: SF Intl., Stockholm.) Produced by Signe Leick Jensen, Karin Trolle. Executive producers, Michael Fleischer, Karoline Leth. Co-producers, Borje Hansson, Jessica Ask. Directed by Bille August. Screenplay, Peter Asmussen, inspired by Anastassia Arnold's biography "The Passion of Marie Kroyer."

Crew: Camera (color, HD, widescreen), Dirk Bruel; editor, Gerd Tjur; music, Stefan Nilsson; production designer, Jette Lehmann; art director, Soren Schwarzberg; costume designer, Manon Rasmussen; sound (Dolby SRD), Niels Arild. Reviewed at Chicago Film Festival (competing), Oct. 15, 2012. Running time: 99 MIN.

With: With: Birgitte Hjort Sorensen, Soren Saetter-Lassen, Sverrir Gudnason. (Danish, Swedish dialogue)

More Film

  • Romanian Director Catalin Mitulescu on Sarajevo

    Romanian Director Catalin Mitulescu on Sarajevo Competition Film ‘Heidi’

    A leading figure of the Romanian New Wave, Cătălin Mitulescu has had a heralded career since winning the Palme d’Or for his 2004 short film “Traffic.” His first two features, “The Way I Spent the End of the World” (2006) and “Loverboy” (2011), both premiered in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard sidebar. He also co-produced and [...]

  • Betty Gilpin'Stuber' film premiere, Arrivals, Regal

    'GLOW' Star Betty Gilpin in Talks to Join Chris Pratt in 'Ghost Draft' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Fresh off her Emmy nomination for Netflix’s “GLOW,” Betty Gilpin has found her next project. The actress is in talks to join Chris Pratt in “Ghost Drama,” a sci-fi action film from Skydance and Paramount. Gilpin would join a cast that also includes “Handmaid’s Tale” star Yvonne Strahovski. Directed by “Lego Batman” filmmaker Chris McKay [...]

  • Stephan Komandarev on Sarajevo Player ‘Rounds’

    Director Stephan Komandarev on Sarajevo Player ‘Rounds’ and His Bulgarian Trilogy

    Bulgarian director Stephan Komandarev earned critical acclaim for his 2017 feature “Directions,” which was selected for Cannes’ Un Certain Regard sidebar. The first installment in a planned trilogy about the social inequality and moral ills plaguing both Bulgaria and Europe at large, the film followed six cab drivers over the course of 24 hours as [...]

  • Meryl Streep Best Movie Lines

    HBO Max Lands Steven Soderbergh's Next Film Starring Meryl Streep

    HBO Max has picked up Steven Soderbergh’s next film, the comedy “Let Them All Talk” starring Meryl Streep. Joining Streep in the ensemble cast are Candice Bergen, Dianne Wiest, Lucas Hedges and Gemma Chan. The screenplay was written by short story author and MacArthur Fellow recipient Deborah Eisenberg. It’s the story of a celebrated author [...]

  • Bruce Springsteen FYSEE Opening Night with

    Bruce Springsteen Drops Introspective Trailer for 'Western Stars' Film

    While initial reports about Bruce Springsteen’s forthcoming documentary around his recent “Western Stars” album said that it would essentially be a concert film, the first trailer for it, which dropped today, suggests it’s going to be a more introspective outing, more in line with his autobiographical performances at “Springsteen on Broadway” in 2017 and 2018, [...]

  • Phyllis Nagy

    Writers Guild Presidential Candidate Phyllis Nagy Blasts Strategy on Agencies

    Phyllis Nagy, who is challenging Writers Guild of America West’s president David Goodman, has warned of dire consequences from the current stalemate between the WGA and Hollywood agents. Nagy, who announced her candidacy on July 22 as the head of Writers for Negotiation, is running on a platform that the WGA needs to get back to [...]

  • Chris Pine to Play Nixon Attorney

    Chris Pine to Play Nixon Lawyer John Dean in Amazon Studios Feature Pitch (EXCLUSIVE)

    Amazon Studios has nabbed a feature pitch with “Wonder Woman” star Chris Pine attached to play John Dean, a pivotal figure in the Watergate scandal. The film will follow the life and political saga of Dean, who served as White House counsel for President Richard Nixon from July 1970 through April 1973. Amazon bought the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content