Asta Neilsen Special: the greatest silent film star

What Goddesses Watch by Film Critic Soma Ghosh

Episode notes

As a new season of her films shows at London's BFI Southbank, we take a look at Asta Neilsen, silent film star, starting with her first film in 1910. Bizarrely largely forgetten, she was so beloved that her picture was pinned up soldiers on both sides of WW1 and called simply 'die Asta' - the Asta - across the world. Soma Ghosh explains how her revelatory acting technique inspired Garbo and Apollinaire, pushed gender norms and redefined the sexuality of women on screen. Films discussed include The Abyss and Hamlet, in which Hamlet is a genderqueer prince assigned male sexuality at birth and in love with Horatio.

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