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The Art of Shattering Eternity - Carsten Jensen, author

'The Art of Shattering Eternity - Carsten Jensen, author' is an intimate portrait of the internationally-acclaimed Danish novelist, essayist and political commentator Carsten Jensen, who speaks with vivid precision about his own writing, the art of story-telling, and the role of literature. Through readings and sequences from his island birthplace, Copenhagen and Afghanistan, the film invites the viewer into the author's interior and literary universe.

  • Adam Paaske
  • Adam Paaske
  • Adam Paaske
  • Carsten Jensen
    Key Cast
  • Olivia Jo Glismann
  • Jonathan Franz Kaiser
    Sound Designer
  • Mathilde Clara Nyegaard
  • Thomas Lassen
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    35 minutes 51 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    May 16, 2019
  • Production Budget:
    1,740 EUR
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
    Afghanistan, Denmark
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    Digital HD
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
    Yes - Department of Anthropology - University of Copenhagen
Director Biography - Adam Paaske

Adam Paaske (born in 1996) is a filmmaker, film communicator and bachelor in anthropology. His first documentary film, ‘The Art of Shattering Eternity’ (2019), is an intimate portrait of the internationally acclaimed Danish novelist, essayist and political commentator Carsten Jensen: this film was part of the official selection at Master of Art Film Festival (2020). The ethnographic comedy ‘Leisure Time - A Summer's Day’ (2022) is Adam Paaske’s second as a director. 'Leisure Time - A Summer's Day' had World Premiere at CPH:DOX, International Premiere at Visions du Réel and was selected at numerous other international festivals around the world.

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Director Statement

The idea of making a cinematic portrait of the author Carsten Jensen first came to me after reading his 1992 essay collection 'From the Confessions of an Asthmatic Critic', which opens with Jensen describing how his childhood discovery of the joy of reading led him to understand the universal need for stories. Although the universe is eternal and incomprehensible, Jensen writes, humans need to look for meaning and comprehend their life as a chain of events. In short, we need stories, because stories shatter eternity. What struck me as wonderful was the way Jensen used his own experience as an anxious child to demonstrate something about the human condition. It moved me profoundly – both intellectually and emotionally.

“Show, don’t tell” is a classic adage of film-making. But given that I was making a film about a writer, and I wanted to convey the evocative power of words, of readings and of oral storytelling, how else to make a film about a writer than to take the decision to tell, not show?

My original plan was to do a single long interview. But then I realized that what I actually wanted was to get Jensen performing “improvised monologues” in which I functioned as the pitcher while Jensen was the batter: I would ask him to tell one of his stories or reflect upon a matter concerning literature - and he would do so with his own words, in his own way. In order to make these monologues feel vivid, I never asked him to re-tell the same story or re-visit a reflection. On top of this, I tried to create an intimate atmosphere conducive to talking by filming Jensen in one place only: his apartment in Copenhagen. I wanted the audience to feel that they were inside his home; that he was sitting right in front of them, and that he spoke to them as one would speak to a friendly stranger.

I conceived of the cinematic language of this film as a cinema of dwelling. The idea was that one should dwell in its images, its words (both readings and monologues), and its sounds. This is why I chose to shoot everything on tripod and in natural light, to create framings of harmonic lines, and to keep the rhythm slow. Sound-wise, I also wanted the film to be minimalistic; to let each element breathe, and do justice to itself.

Although I knew from the start that I wanted to begin with Jensen telling the story of his first experience as a reader, leading to the discovery that stories shatter eternity, it took some time in the editing room to realize that it must also end on the theme of eternity. This led me to recall a passage in one of Jensen’s novels in which he describes eternity as a moment of happiness, liberation, and unity with the world. I decided to end the film with this passage as a counterbalance to the opening, where he experienced eternity as something that needed to be shattered. Bookended by these two visions of eternity that are both completely different and yet the same, the film should invite the viewer on a journey in which they experience the places that have shaped Jensen, and that he has shaped through his writings: the ocean surrounding his island birthplace, the city of Copenhagen and the deserts of war-torn Afghanistan.

It is important for me that viewers who do not yet know Carsten Jensen or his writing experience the film as a work in itself, rather than one aimed at Jensen-connoisseurs. I wanted to make a film that is both an intimate portrait of Jensen as an author, an introduction to his fictional universe(s), an exploration of the evocative power of words - and my own homage to the art of storytelling.