Hans Christian Andersen

In the shadow of the fairy tales

Documentary, 53min ARTE, NDR, 2023

Initial Broadcast on ARTE in 2023

This film is the first to portray the fairy tale author Hans Christian Andersen as a visual artist and to follow him into the depths of his graphic imagination, an imagination that inspired Vincent van Gogh himself back in his day.


In a collage of documentary and staged sequences, the film recounts how Andersen experimented with images and text, becoming in the mid-19th century the vanguard of an autonomous artist approach later pursued by Picasso and Warhol. The writer, who was been born into direst poverty, was a talented self-promoter who 'marketed' his own life as a fairy tale, yet lived out his latter days in solitude.


The film deconstructs Andersen, the fairy tale bard, and scenically brings to life an innerly conflicted artist, as portrayed by Danish star actor Lars Mikkelsen. As evidenced by the bronze "Little Mermaid" in Copenhagen's harbor, Andersen's fairy tale figures have today become symbols of a vanished world.


The film also takes viewers to the brand new "House of Fairytales," the Andersen Museum in his birthplace of Odense, Denmark. The creator of "The Princess and the Pea" and "The Little Match Girl" is presented there by the museum's curators as a pop star of romanticism by means of state-of-the-art chiaroscuro animation.


Andersen's own visual works, conversely, have hitherto remained in the shadow of the successful storyteller and are largely unknown, as goes for his paper cuttings, picture books, and the huge paravent he made shortly prior to his death from hundreds of industrially fabricated, modernist engravings and photographs.


Hans Christian Andersen was equally obsessed with the medium of photography and was one of the most-photographed people of the 19th century – an Instagrammer of early modernism.

Screenplay and Direction

Wilfried Hauke


Boris Mahlau, Ivan Minov


Michael Schlatow


George Kochbeck


Matthias Greving

Commissioning Editors

Claudia Cellarius


Kinescope Film
IDA Film & TV Produktion