In his fourth feature, Århus loyalist Nils Malmros continues his reminiscing fiction portryals of school days in the 1950s. You follow a class during its final years of grade school. The kids are teenagers, clannish, clownish, sweet and vicious, struggling to make sense of their physical and mental growing pains. The film was shot over two years: the cast literally grew up along with the action.
Tree of Knowledge (Danish: Kundskabens træ) is a 1981 Danish coming-of-age drama directed by Nils Malmros. The film details the lives of 17 teenage schoolmates in 1950s Denmark. Shooting on location at the high school which he had attended, Malmros took two years to film the action, so the cast members reflected the real life physical and emotional development of their characters. Film Critic Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote “The Tree of Knowledge is the truest and most moving film I have ever seen about the experience of puberty… a creative act of memory about exactly what it was like to be 13 in 1953.”
Despite critical praise, Tree of Knowledge received only two awards: the Danish Film Critics Bodil Award for Jan Weincke’s cinematography and the Audience Award at the Lübeck Nordic Film Festival. Tree of Knowledge is one of the top 100 Danish films listed by the Danish Film Institute and is one of ten films listed in the cultural canon of Denmark by the Danish Ministry of Culture.
The film was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival and was selected as the Danish entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 55th Academy Awards, but was not accepted as a nominee.
Tree of Knowledge – Kundskabens træ (1981)
Directed by: Nils Malmros
Starring: Eva Gram Schjoldager, Jan Johansen, Line Arlien-Søborg, Marian Wendelbo, Gitte Iben Andersen, Lone Elliot, Astrid Holm Jensen, Marin Lysholm Jepsen
Screenplay by: Nils Malmros, Frederick Cryer
Cinematography by: Jan Weincke
Film Editing by: Merete Brusendorf, Janus Billeskov Jansen
Costume Design by: Françoise Nicolet
Makeup Department: Britta Broholt
Distributed by: Kærne Film
Release Date: November 13, 1981