Visual Philosophy of the Unknown: Retrospective of Michael Madsen

From mediocrity to alien civilizations, from a theatre theme to 3D technology, from conceptual art to documentary film. Explore the unexpected and original ways of the art world of Danish director Michael Madsen, one of the leading filmmakers of the Nordic cinematic superpower. Watch the director’s film retrospective for free and do not miss your first encounter of the “third kind” via the Czech online premiere of the documentary sci-fi THE VISIT in the week from May 2 to 15!

Trying to find a genre label for Danish director and conceptual artist Michael Madsen is not an easy task. His work crosses the boundaries of art disciplines as easily as its content crosses geographic boundaries while dealing with universal themes related to the lives of each of us as well as the human society as a whole. However, it is not only global themes that help Michael Madsen reach audiences around the world and bring him awards at prestigious film festivals, such as the Doc Alliance festivals CPH:DOX and Visions du Réel. With an eye for exact detail, the director also elaborates the original visual concept of each of his films, contributing to their attractive visual aspect by means of an innovative use of the camera and new technologies.

Besides his cinematic work, which is tirelessly pushing the borders of documentary film, the name of Michael Madsen is also often heard in the context of his audiovisual conceptual work. As a founder and long-term artistic director, he is linked to the Sound/Gallery project, a space underneath the Town Hall Square in Copenhagen which focused on exploring the possibilities of sound installations, and is also a guest lecturer at the Royal Danish Academy of Art, the Danish Film School and the University of California.

A glowing example of the director’s sophisticated ability to render apocalyptic visions through hypnotic and mesmerizing film images can be seen in Madsen’s highly acclaimed film INTO ETERNITY (2010). In the film, the director addresses the theme of ecologic responsibility for the sustainable existence of the planet. He sets out to the world’s largest nuclear waste repository that is accessible only to a chosen few, is under construction in Finland and is to be completed in the 22nd century. By the film’s subtitle A FILM FOR THE FUTURE, the director poses the question of the legacy of our modern society in the form of hundreds of thousands of tons of nuclear waste, addressing both the contemporary and the future generations.

Madsen’s latest film THE VISIT (2015), too, carries a potential of a critical commentary, making a visually captivating reflection on the state of the contemporary society on the basis of a simulation of an encounter with an alien civilization. While most of the cultural production linked to the notions of a UFO visit teems with little green men and immortal alien agents, the director approaches the theme with utter seriousness, saying: “The real task for The Visit is to discover what such an encounter would really mean. In this respect, the film is not conceived as a scenario of “what if” but rather of “what and when”. The Visit is the dress rehearsal, the emergency plat that the United Nations has voiced concerns about not being in existence.” Sublime visual scenes of the world’s famous cities at the moment of an alien encounter are supplemented by interviews with leading representatives of the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs and NASA experts explaining how ready (or not) the official institutions of the Earth are for an alien “visit.”

During the event, THE VISIT is available for streaming only in the Czech Republic and Slovakia in the form of an online distribution premiere. On Sunday, May 1, 2016, the film is offered to Czech and Slovak viewers for free; from Monday, May 2, it can be viewed for the fee of 1.99 euro.

Besides dealing with timeless themes, Michael Madsen has also introduced the phenomena of everyday life to the film screens. Inspired by the eponymous play To Damascus by Swedish dramatist August Strindberg, the director analyses mental illness in his film TO DAMASCUS – A FILM ON INTERPRETATION (2005). A question that might seem banal at first glance, asking what mediocrity is, has become the key theme of the first Danish documentary ever made by 3D technology AVERAGE OF THE AVERAGE (2011).

Madsen’s online retrospective of renowned films further includes the director’s earliest film CELESTIAL NIGHT: A FILM ON VISIBILITY (2003) and the short comic film STATISTICS OF COPENHAGEN (2008).

Treat yourselves to an online “visit” to the rich art world of Michael Madsen! Enter it for free at from May 2 to 15. is powered by Doc Alliance, a creative partnership of 7 key European documentary film festivals. Our aim is to advance the documentary genre, support its diversity and promote quality creative documentary films.

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