Jørgen Leth Interview: I Write What I see

“One’s eye changes things. One’s eye makes things come alive.” Experience the much-admired Danish poet, writer and film director Jørgen Leth in this video where he reads one of his unique poems and compares writing poetry to performing alchemy.

“When writing new poems, I sit down and see what I see and live what I live. Be it banalities or whatever.” Leth often begins a new poem by simply describing what is on the table. He is completely aware that this is only interesting if he immerses himself completely and furthermore possesses the energy to breathe new life into the things he writes about: “There must be a will to change it in the moment one describes it. That’s what makes it alive.”

Jørgen Leth (b. 1937) is a Danish poet, writer and film director, who is considered among the leading figures in experimental documentary filmmaking. He has made more than 40 films, among which he is particularly noted for ‘The Perfect Human’ (1967) (‘Det perfekte menneske’), ‘Motion Picture’ (1970), ‘A Sunday in Hell’ (1977) (‘En forårsdag I helvede’), ‘66 Scenes from America’ (1981) (‘66 scener fra Amerika’), ‘The Five Obstructions’ (2003) (‘De fem benspænd’) (which was made in collaboration with the highly acclaimed Danish film director Lars von Trier) and ‘Erotic Man’ (2010) (‘Det erotiske menneske’). His many books include the poetry collection ‘It Passes Me’ (1975) (‘Det går forbi mig’), the memoir ‘The Imperfect Man. Scenes from My Life’ (2005) (‘Det uperfekte menneske – selvbiografi’) and ‘The Gifts of Chance – Essays About Filmmaking’ (‘Tilfældets gaver – Tekster om at lave film’). Leth is the recipient of prestigious awards such as the 1995 ‘Drachmann Award’ for his literary oeuvre, the 1996 and the 2000 Danish Film Academy ‘Robert Award’ and the 2009 Honorary ‘Bodil Award’ for lifetime achievement (for his films). Leth is also a sports commentator for Danish television.

Jørgen Leth was interviewed by Kasper Bech Dyg at the Danish Film Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark in June 2014. During the video Leth reads the poem ‘Fortabe sig i en søgen efter tegn’ from his book ‘Tilfældets gaver – Tekster om at lave film’ (2009) (‘The Gifts of Chance – Essays About Filmmaking’).

Camera: Nikolaj Jungersen
Produced and edited by: Kasper Bech Dyg
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2015

Supported by Nordea-fonden


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