recess radio program

04/02/07
Young Andersen
    by John Cech

Brief Sound Clip:

This is the melancholy first notes for Young Andersen, a new film from Denmark about the teenage years of Hans Christian Andersen, who was born this week in 1805. The opening sequence for the film, directed by Rumle Hammerich takes us under water, and then to the surface . . . . suddenly:

Brief Sound Clip:

The word, "Tuk," is actually the name that an elderly man -- we learn it is the dying Andersen -- exclaims after he awakens from a nightmare. Tuk is the nickname of Andersen's boyhood friend, another child like Andersen who is wafted along, like duckling down, on the breezes of destiny. At the end of his life, the old Andersen, played by Peter Steen, is tormented by the fate of his friend, acted wonderfully by Mikkel Konyher.

Tuk is forced to take the beatings that Andersen's brutal country schoolmaster, Rektor Meisling, played with frightening intensity by Henning Jensen, would like to dish out to Andersen. But he is forbidden to do so because of Andersen's powerful friends back in Copenhagen. As a teenager, Andersen -- in an astonishing performance here by Simon Dahl Thaulow -- has been sent to Meisling's ("Mysling's") elementary school by wealthy benefactors out of sympathy for Andersen because he has not received any formal education.

Meisling is immediately jealous of the boy and tries, throughout the film, to break his spirit and his desire to become a writer. Meisling will release him, he tells the young Andersen, only when he writes something that will make the schoolmaster cry. After years of torment, excruciating work, and desperate inspiration, the young Andersen confronts Meisling with a story he has written. After hearing it, Meisling claims that he has not shed a tear. But he has. Andersen knows the truth and tells him: "You should." Unlike Meisling, the audience will find itself being moved throughout by this vibrant, powerful portrait of the artist as a young man.

Copyright 2007 John Cech

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