Jørgen Roos

Jørgen Roos (1922-98). Photo: Nordisk Films Kompagni.
Jørgen Roos photographed "They Caught the Ferry" (1948), directed Shakespeare og Kronborg (1950), photographed and was credited for the "completion" of "A Castle within a Castle" (1954), and made the documentary film portrait "Carl Th. Dreyer" (1966).

Director of photography, film director, producer, 14 August 1922 – 19 September 1998.

Roos grew up in a creative environment with an older brother, Karl Roos (1914-1951), who, in 1936, with Theodor Christensen, published the first real Danish work of film theory, Film. By 1939, Roos was working as a professional director of photographer. In 1947, he extended his field of activity to screenwriting, producing and directing, when he, along with Dreyer and Søren Melson, was put on contract with Dansk Kulturfilm and the Ministerial Film Committee (Roos’ and Melson’s contracts expired in November 1950). From 1970-1978, he co-headed Minerva Film, with Sten Hasager.

The first collaboration between Dreyer and Roos – as director and DP, respectively – was the adaptation of a short story by Johannes V. Jensen, Naaede de Færgen? ("Did They Catch the Ferry?"), published on 24 December 1925 in the Social-Demokraten newspaper. Its title changed to the affirmative They Caught the Ferry, the film was produced by Nordisk Film for Dansk Kulturfilm and the Ministerial Film Committee on behalf of the Danish Road Safety Council (Rådet for større Færdselssikkerhed). Herman Larsen, a motorcycle racer, was hired as a consultant on the film. The leading role as the motorcyclist Sophus, who, with his girlfriend, Elvira, catches a ferry piloted by Charon, was played by Joseph Koch, lead test driver for Fisker & Nielsen, maker of Nimbus motorcycles. Elvira was played by his wife in real life, Kamma Koch. An interview by Allan Kløve Nyborg with Kamma Koch about the film was published in Nimbus-legender (Motorploven, 2004). This truly was a case of authentic casting, just the way Dreyer liked it. The film was afforded a lavish presentation at the Saga cinema on 12 May 1948.

With the world premiere of Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet adaptation scheduled for November 1948, Ib Koch-Olsen of Dansk Kulturfilm in August 1947 asked Dreyer to write two scripts about Kronborg, Hamlet’s castle. One, Shakespeare and Kronborg, was a pathetic period film about a troupe of actors led by Shakespeare (played by Olaf Ussing) visiting Kronborg (shot on location) and performing before King Frederik II and his court. The other was A Castle within a Castle, a documentary about the ruins of an old castle under Kronborg, called Krogen, which archaeologists had excavated in 1926-1935. Both films were to be shot by Roos and directed by Dreyer. However, the films were pushed back to 1949, when Nat Carson and his British company of actors would be visiting Kronborg in June. Blevins Davis, the company’s impresario, was thrilled to meet Dreyer and immediately rekindled Dreyer’s old dream of a Jesus film. Soon after, on 10 June 1949, Dreyer signed a contract with Davis to write a screenplay for the Jesus film within six months.

As of 7 June on, poor Roos was contractually obligated to complete Shakespeare and Kronborg as director (Erling Schroeder directed the onstage scenes). The 10-minute film was released on 22 March 1950. Koch-Olsen was willing to forgive Dreyer for his breach of contract, even though Dansk Kulturfilm was in dire financial straits because of its expensive feature film about the Danish constitution, For frihed og ret ("For Freedom and Justice") from the same year. Hence, A Castle within a Castle was not exactly a prestigious project and the film had a raggedy life. In 1950, a collaboration between Roos and Paul Solbjerghøj, entitled Kronborg, fell through. On 30 May 1951, Dansk Kulturfilm released Historien om et slot ("The Story of a Castle"), an eight-minute film written and directed by Roos, with Solbjerghøj as director of photography. A Castle within a Castle was finally released on 29 September 1954 in a nine-minute version based on Dreyer old footage for Teknisk Film Compagni from 1947. Dreyer is credited as director, and Roos for "completion" and as director of photography. This episode was quite important to Roos’ advancement in the system and may have given him the boost that launched his career as a director on the domestic film scene, where he soon emerged as the uncrowned king of Danish documentaries.

Dreyer later made it up to Roos by allowing Roos – as the only one ever – to do a film portrait of him, on the shoot of Gertrud (1964). The resulting film, Carl Th. Dreyer, was originally screened just twice, at a closed press screening on 14 November 1966 in Copenhagen and the following day at a single screening at Cinémathèque Francaise. Jørgen Nielsen, head of Palladium, was demanding such a high fee for the excerpts from Gertrud that Dansk Kulturfilm could not afford to put the film into public distribution. The film was not released until 1984, many years after Dansk Kulturfilm had ceased to exist.

Jorgen Roos in the Danish National Filmography

By Carl Nørrested | 25. February