Rotterdam 2024 Review: THE LIGHT Points Attention To An Art Scandal

Alexander Lind's documentary sheds some much-needed light on a bizarre controversy.

Editor, Europe; Rotterdam, The Netherlands (@ardvark23)
Rotterdam 2024 Review: THE LIGHT Points Attention To An Art Scandal
In May 1995, Denmark was celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the end of its occupation by the Nazis during World War 2, and many festivities were planned. As part of these, an art installation called 'Peace Sculpture 1995' was greenlit (literally): on the evening of the 4th of March, a string of connected lasers would light up the coast of Denmark and expose the remains of the 6000 German bunkers which were built there to protect Germany from invasion by the Allied Forces.

Denmark has traditionally put up lights everywhere in May to commemorate the end of the war, so this seemed like a nice enough project, a spectacular light in a sea of lights, right?

Wrong, apparently...

IFFR2024-TheLight-ext1.jpgWhen the plans became known, some dissenting voices were highlighted by the media. Some said the lasers were heralding the work of the Nazis. Some said the sculpture was a stab at the Danish people who had built these bunkers, calling them collaborators. Others claimed that the project intended to drown out the lights set up for the resistance fighters. Indeed, some resistance fighters felt snubbed for not being consulted and argued that the project was an intended insult to them.

As 'Peace Sculpture 1995' was quite costly and required government funding, Denmark's minister for culture was put in the spotlight as well, with opposing parties demanding she'd end the project.

Normally some controversy is to an artwork's advantage. People start talking about it, discuss the themes behind it, and it can make the creators rich and (in)famous. Not so in this case though: artist Elle-Mie Ejdrup Hansen and the team who helped make the laser sculpture were hounded by media, received death threats even, and often were blacklisted afterwards, sometimes for decades. Some of the laser installations ended up sabotaged or vandalized. 'Why?' is the big question Alexander Lind's documentary Lyset a.k.a. The Light tries to answer.

In the film, we get an overview of the project's set-up and its aftermath. In 1995 most people had only heard about the Internet and most people weren't on social media, so the discussion happened primarily in television talkshows and newspapers, all of which were happy to sensationalize the issue and show a skewed version of the intentions. Opponents were given lots of leeway and airtime, and the fact that both the artist and the minister of culture were women was openly frowned upon by older male colleagues who accused them of not being able to 'read the room' properly.

In the Netherlands we celebrate the same thing on the same day, and we also have our share of German bunkers peppering our coasts, so this documentary was pretty easy for me to get into, as in: this could CERTAINLY have happened here. Danish director Alexander Lind keeps the tempo high, the length short at 70 minutes, you don't get the opportunity to get bored and not only could he use a wealth of archival material, he also managed to get many of the key players in this story to speak up about what happened.

Summing it up: this is a pretty great documentary, informative with a bit of a sting in it sometimes. Audiences in Rotterdam really liked what they saw and awarded the film a rating of 4.5 out of 5.

The Light had its International Première at the International Film Festival Rotterdam and will be travelling the festival circuit onward.



  • Alexander Lind
  • Marie Bjørn
  • Alexander Lind
  • Majbritt Madsen
  • Elle-Mie Ejdrup Hansen
  • Jytte Hilden
  • Michael Thouber
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Alexander LindMarie BjørnMajbritt MadsenElle-Mie Ejdrup HansenJytte HildenMichael ThouberDocumentary

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