What do Olsen-banden (The Olsen Gang) films tell us about the Danish society?

Giedrius Tamaševičius



Erik Balling (1924–2005) is one of the most famous Danish film directors of the 20th century. Several generations of viewers recognise him as a connoisseur of the Danish folk soul and a skilled representative of Danish humour. His popular TV series Matador (first broadcast on Danish TV in 1978–81), which tells the story of the lives of two families in a provincial town in the period 1929–47, is today considered a skilful narration of the most important historical and social changes in Denmark up to the end of the forties.


In this seminar, special focus is given to 13 popular comedies about Olsen-banden (The Olsen Gang released in Danish cinemas between 1968 and 1981) that have brought Erik Balling the honour of representing Denmark's transition from a post-war provincial country to a modern one. Welfare, equality, technological development, membership in the European Community and other topics can draw attention in the films as signs of the new times in society. The changes that the director often chooses to look at through the lens of irony.


At the same time, The Olsen Gang is a colourful representation of the paradoxical characteristics of Danes that are relevant to this day. According Christian Monggaard famous Danish film critic Erik Balling lets the Danes look themselves in the eyes and recognise the innate paradoxes they carry as a people and a nation: humility and grandeur, tolerance and self-sufficiency, openness and cunning, self-irony and self-importance (Monggaard 2011).

The talk will take place on November 24th, at 15:00, in Room 402.

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