Henning Bendtsen, 1925–2011

On Film / Short Takes — Feb 11, 2011

Danish cinematographer Henning Bendtsen—whose career stretched from the 1940s to 1991, with his final film, Lars von Trier’s Europa—has died at the age of eighty-five. Bendtsen is best known, perhaps, for the transcendent images he created with director Carl Theodor Dreyer on the films Ordet (1955) and Gertrud (1964). For the former, he devised what we believe to be one of the greatest shots in cinema history: a late-film, almost three-minute pan around the possibly mad character Johannes and his niece, Marren, fearful of her mother’s death. Though the camera doesn’t for a moment stop its slow rotation around the two of them, we never see their backs; they are evidently subtly rotating along with the camera. Jonathan Rosenbaum has called this scene “a miracle of its own, expressed through an ‘impossible’ mise-en-scène.” Watch this sublime image below.

Henning Bendtsen, 1925–2011