directed by Torben Skj°dt Jensen
Denmark 2003


Before Hollywood even had thought about stars and divas, Europe was blessed with the first in the form of the Danish actress Asta Nielsen, who consequently became know simply as ”Die Asta”. In a class for herself, Asta was the queen of silent features, the diva, mysterious, sensual and almost untameable.

As Hitler came to power, Asta Nielsen chose to remove herself from Germany and thus also from her career. She moved back to Copenhagen, where she, until her death in 1972, lived secluded and away from the public eye, only allowing few within her circle, never exposing her private self.

In the mid fifties she was introduced to the antique book dealer Frede Smidt, with whom she became very close friends and whom she allowed to see the private Asta. Unknown to most, Frede chose to record all phone conversations he made and had, as they to him would be his legacy to the future, and in turns thus also recorded his conversations with Asta. It is because of these, more than 200 often hour long, conversations, which Frede and Asta had from 1957 to 1959, documentarist Torben Skj°dt Jensen was able to create “The talking Muse”, where he, combined with her interviews, recreates Asta Nielsen as a real person.

Having gotten so intimate with the persona of Asta Nielsen, Jensen wrote, in collaboration with Peter Asmussen, who co-wrote “Breaking the Waves”, the TV-film “Afgrunden” (The Abyss), named after the break-thru film of Asta from 1910, and based upon Danish author Henrik Stangerups’ notes from 1967, where Stangerup attempted to make a film about her life with Asta playing herself.

A young film director wants to make a film about Asta Nielsen. He approached her with the image of her as the diva, but during the interviews, the real Asta shows herself, as a person with emotions and worries, in short a human being.

Shot on HD-video, “Afgrunden” is one of the best Danish TV-productions to date and easily one of the best Danish films of recent years. Vera Gebuhr, one of Denmark’s finest character actresses, embodies Asta to the smallest idiosyncrasy, and Ole Lemmeke, another great character actor, projects his fascination for his idol onto the audience, even as the diva image collapses and reality shows its face.

Also noteworthy is the beautiful cinematography by Harald Paalgard, who also shot "My Metier", and in recent years has turned into one of Denmark's best DoP's, especially after "Arven".

For anyone with the slightest of interest in both silent film history, especially Danish and German, and Die Asta, both productions can only be heartfelt recommended.

Henrik Sylow


Theatrical Release: August 17th, 2003 (Copenhagen International Film Festival)

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DVD Review: SF Film - Region 2 - PAL

Big thanks to Henrik Sylow for the Review!

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SF Film

Region 2 - PAL

Runtime 3:18:22 (4% PAL speedup)

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 4.96 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.


Audio 2.0 Dolby Digital Danish
Subtitles English, Danish, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: SF Film

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• Den Talende Muse (The Talking Muse)
• Duration: 1:42:42 - 24 chapters
• Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 (16x9)
• ...
• Afgrunden
• Duration: 1:35:40 - 20 chapters
• 1.33:1 and 1.78:1 (16x9)
• ...
• Flipcover, where one side is in Danish and the other English.

DVD Release Date: November 3rd, 2004
Transparent Keepcase

Chapters 44

Comments This is the sort of DVD where there really isn’t any need for additional material, as one can chose to view “The Talking Muse”, the documentary about Asta Nielsen, as additional material to the film “Afgrunden”, even though they share equal weight.

The image on both is beautiful, showing little signs of compression artefacts, even though more than three hours of material is packed onto the DVD.

There are minor flaws on the DVD. On the documentary, presented in both 1.33:1 and 1.78:1 (16x9) dynamic screen, there are digital counter traces in the top.

Putting that aside, this is in presentation how great Danish films should be presented. English subtitles for an international film audience and a flipcover, not to dissuade potential buyers; Not really needed, but such a nice touch.

 - Henrik Sylow


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Subtitle sample (English subtitles only) - Notice flaw (top of the image)




















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