Forget The Martian, come watch captain Avanti Planetaros and his international band of leather-clad explorers conquer the skies with their ship Excelsior! The Danish silent film A Trip to Mars/Himmelskibet was one of the first feature length science fiction films ever to be made and still counts as one of the most beautiful.  Taking directions from his astronomer father, the youthful Avanti assembles an international team of daredevils willing to undertake the long journey to Mars in the name of science and exploration.

On the red planet, they encounter a peaceful utopian society that is free of war and knows only vegetarianism. The film is a pacifist pamphlet that came out at a time when the Great War had yet to end and its message is only amplified by its breathtaking cinematography. Directed by Holger-Madsen (Denmark, 1918).

A Trip to Mars will be introduced by Vito Adriaensens, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Columbia University.

About the director

Danish director Holger-Madsen started out as an actor in the late 19th century, cutting his teeth at respected theatres such as the Casino and the Dagmar, where he earned the nickname “Maske-Madsen” for his ability to transform himself. He started working in the movie industry in 1908 and became famous for the work he did for the Nordisk film company between 1913 and 1919, shooting about 80 films for them at this time and becoming one of its leading directors next to such talent as August Blom.

Apart from A Trip to Mars, Holger-Madsen’s finest and most well-known works of the silent period are the redemption drama The Candle and the Moth/Evangeliemandens Liv (1915) and the pacifist pamphlet film Lay Down Your Arms!/Ned Med Vaabnene! (1915), written by Carl Theodor Dreyer.

About Vito Adriaensens

Vito Adriaensens is Adjunct Assistant Professor at Columbia University’s School of the Arts and a Postdoctoral Fellow from the Belgian American Educational Foundation via the University of Antwerp.

His research focuses on the aesthetic, cultural and (art) historical interaction between film, theatre and visual arts, with an emphasis on silent cinema.



Image courtesy of the Danish Film Institute

WED—3-30-2016—7 PM
$10 ($7 ASF Members)
80 min. | Silent with English subtitles

The film will be screened with live musical accompaniment.