Beauty in Bacon: "The Pattern of Co-operation and the export of postwar Danish democracy

PEER REVIEWED. The co-operative movement shaped daily life in mid-20th-century Denmark and attracted much international attention. Agricultural co-operation was therefore an obvious topic for a short film which would market Danish bacon and dairy produce and shape the nation's image abroad. In this article, a historian and a film scholar join forces to analyse Theodor Christensen’s short film The Pattern of Co-operation as a case study in the use of state-sponsored film in post-war cultural diplomacy.



Thomson, C. Claire and Hilson, Mary (2014): Beauty in Bacon: "The Pattern of Co-operation" and the export of postwar Danish democracy. Kosmorama #255 (

Dansk Kulturfilm (Danish Cultural Film) was established in 1932 to produce and distribute primarily short films for education, enlightenment, and general propaganda (‘Love for Dansk Kulturfilm,’ 1932). Despite its origins as a private enterprise, Dansk Kulturfilm was gradually consolidated as a key pillar of Danish national film policy, until it was mothballed in the mid-1960s. The agency functioned as a clearing house for filmmaking in the service of the state and a myriad of semi- and non-governmental organizations. So many interest groups were affiliated to Dansk Kulturfilm that its first director, Thomas P. Hejle, referred to it in jest as “the film world’s co-operative store” (“filmverdenens brugsforening”, quoted in Alsted 1987a: 17). This throwaway remark is indicative of the centrality of the co-operative movement to Danish daily life at the time. Accordingly, it is striking that only one film about Danish co-operation was made under the auspices of Dansk Kulturfilm and its sister body Ministeriernes Filmudvalg (the Government Film Committee, hereafter MFU).[i] This film was The Pattern of Co-operation. Directed by Theodor Christensen and released in 1952, it is regarded by the director’s biographer Palle Bøgelund Petterson as one of his most successful films (Petterson 2014: 184). Part of a post-war wave of government-commissioned informational shorts made for overseas audiences, it constitutes a rich and informative case study in how the skills of the Danish documentarists were put to work in the service of exporting Danishness to the world.

Taking The Pattern of Co-operation as a case study, this article examines film as a tool of public diplomacy immediately after the Second World War. Of particular

interest is the role of the various parties involved in the approval process: whose interests they represented, how they understood public diplomacy, how a range of agencies made their presence felt during a rather convoluted process, and how they respectively wished to represent Denmark abroad. The film that would eventually be released as The Pattern of Co-operation grew out of a number of disparate projects, but a consistent aspect of the commission was the ambition to present Danish co-operative agriculture to overseas audiences. The film was neither commissioned nor funded by the Danish co-operative movement,[ii] but was initiated by the Danish Foreign Ministry and underwritten by MFU to the tune of 75,000 Danish kroner (Koch-Olsen 1954, February 19). Tellingly, in the film’s opening titles, it is the nation itself that is prioritised as the film’s originating authority, with the declaration: “Denmark presents.”

After an opening discussion of the concept of public diplomacy and of the significance of co-operation in the image of Denmark, we trace the film’s commissioning, approval and production, drawing on materials preserved in the archive of Statens Filmcentral, the Danish government’s film distribution agency. We then turn our attention to the finished film, analysing how the stylistic tools available to the filmmaker were employed to construct a coherent narrative and set of motifs that self-consciously mediated Denmark’s agricultural co-operation to an overseas audience. We conclude with an overview of the film’s circulation and reception in Denmark and abroad, paying special attention to selected national markets for which versions of the film were not made. Negotiations between MFU, Andelsudvalget (the central committee of the co-operative movement) and overseas agencies on unrealised versions of The Pattern of Co-operation reveal the limitations imposed on public diplomacy not only by foreign political cultures, but also by financial and technological constraints.

Public diplomacy and the Nordic Model

Public diplomacy refers to “the process by which international actors seek to accomplish the goals of their foreign policy by engaging with foreign publics” (Cull 2008: 31; see also Glover 2011: 232, n. 1). The term was first coined in the 1960s but most scholars agree that the activities it describes are much older than this.[iii] Public diplomacy can take many different forms, ranging from the promotion of educational exchanges to broadcasting.[iv] The term ’cultural diplomacy’ is of particular interest to us here and refers especially to efforts to make the cultural achievements of a particular nation state known overseas, usually through institutions established especially for the purpose such as the British Council, the Goethe Institute or the Academie française (Cull 2008; Glover 2011).

Scholarly interest in cultural diplomacy has grown in recent years, stimulated by contemporary debates about nation branding and the new possibilities for transnational communication presented by digital media (Cull 2008). As Gregory Paschalidis has noted, however, our knowledge of cultural diplomacy is still heavily dominated by the activities of larger states, in particular the USA and the former imperial European great powers (Paschalidis 2009: 286). The activities of smaller states, including Denmark, are much less well known (see however Christiansen 2009). Such cases may help to highlight the importance of considering cultural diplomacy in its broader contexts and in particular tracing the relationships between the many different interests involved in producing it: government and its agencies, diplomats, export industries, cultural and educational elites. The example of the film discussed in this article illustrates how these different interests overlapped and sometimes clashed with each other over the construction and presentation of the image of Denmark.

Although the idea of cultural diplomacy has been associated in particular with the diplomatic strategies of the superpowers during the Cold War, the institutions charged with promoting national culture abroad had their roots in the cultural propaganda activities of the inter-war period. Such activities were often part of the ideological strategies of authoritarian regimes in states such as Germany and Italy, but from the 1930s they were also imitated by democratic, non-fascist states (Paschalidis 2009). The years before the outbreak of the Second World War saw increasingly assertive displays of national culture, of which the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games is perhaps the best-known example (Paschalidis 2009: 280). Aggressive nationalist propaganda was discredited after 1945, but paradoxically, the national cultural institute came to be “widely considered as the most prudent option for bringing the war-weary international society back to the conciliatory path” (Paschalidis 2009: 282). These aspirations were represented above all in the work of UNESCO (established 1946) but also in the increased activities of institutions such as the Goethe Institute (1951) or the United States Information Agency (USIA, 1953) (Paschalidis 2009: 282; Glover 2011: 39).

As Nikolas Glover has shown in his study of the Swedish Institute (established 1945), Swedish cultural diplomacy in the post-war era was informed by the idea of ‘enlightenment’ (upplysning) as a central concept. The Institute’s dissemination of facts and information about Sweden were intended to highlight what was nationally unique about Sweden but in doing so to contribute to universal notions of progress and international development, rather than being driven by overtly nationalist aims (Glover 2011, esp. ch. 2). As Glover puts it, the Swedish Institute was concerned with “how to come across as special in a normal sense” (Glover 2011: 43). The early work of the Swedish Institute can thus be seen as a conscious effort to overcome lingering doubts of a ‘tarnished neutrality’ after the events of the war. In Denmark, the establishment of the Danish Cultural Institute (initially Det danske Selskab) was a direct response to the Nazi invasion and occupation of the country in April 1940 (Christiansen 2009). As Niels Finn Christiansen notes in his history of the Institute, the initiative to establish it was taken during the summer of 1940 by the philologist Folmer Wisti. In his letter inviting members of the cultural elite to a meeting at Copenhagen University, Wisti contrasted the contemporary national crisis to that of 1864: rather than turning inwards, the situation demanded “endlessly intense and targeted outward-looking work” (“et uendeligt intens og maalbevidst Arbejde udadtil”, cited in Christiansen 2009: 24). 

As Glover also observes, the emergence of cultural diplomacy has to be seen not only in the context of geopolitics, but also in relation to developments in communication. Citing the sociologist John B. Thompson, Glover notes how “the background of broader technological and intellectual developments associated with communication” changed the way in which the Swedish Institute related Sweden to the world (Glover 2011: 14). In the Danish context, the increasing production of informational films (or kulturfilm) from the mid-1930s under the auspices of the semi-governmental agency Dansk Kulturfilm had the explicit remit to serve the advancement of “teaching and enlightenment or of general propaganda for Denmark or Danish business” (“til fremme for Undervisningen og Oplysningen eller til almindelig Propaganda for Danmark eller dansk Erhvervsliv,” ‘Love for Dansk Kulturfilm’ 1932: 1):

While a handful of Occupation-era films were made with the purpose of promoting trade or cultural links with Germany,[v] it was not until after the Second World War that the potential of the informational short film to promote Denmark abroad was more strategically channelled into filmmaking for a range of foreign audiences. Films made under the auspices of Dansk Kulturfilm and its sister organisation Ministeriernes Filmudvalg (The Government Film Committee) were distributed abroad by the Press Bureau of the Foreign Ministry, through an overseas network of embassies, consuls, individuals and cultural institutes. The burgeoning use worldwide of short films in educational work, promoted by UNESCO, as well as the growth of an international film festival culture, formed a fertile backdrop for Denmark’s documentarists.[vi]    

The co-operative movement and the image of Denmark

The agencies engaged in Danish public diplomacy during and after the war – not least via the medium of film – were not operating in a vacuum, but could draw on established images of Denmark and its Scandinavian neighbours. As Kazimierz Musiał has shown, the idea of the Scandinavian or Nordic model which became prominent in post-war European politics was formed through a dynamic interaction between external perceptions of the region or xenostereotypes communicated through travel writing, political reportage and the like, and national self-images or autostereotypes (Musiał 2002). These external images have their own history which can be traced back to at least the early nineteenth century, but by the 1920s foreign interest in Denmark had coalesced around several themes: the modernisation of the Danish agricultural sector; education and especially the Folk High Schools; advances in scientific research and social reform (Musiał 2002; for a broader discussion of images of the north see Harvard and Stadius 2013). From the 1930s and especially after the Stockholm Exhibition of 1930 international attention shifted towards Sweden, which increasingly came to be celebrated as the epitome of progressiveness and modernity, especially in the United States (Musiał 2002; also Eriksson 2010; Hale 2009; Marklund 2009). This idea was cemented by the publication in 1936 of American journalist Marquis Childs’ Sweden – the Middle Way, which became a bestseller (Childs 1936).

For this reason, it is probably fair to say that Sweden has attracted the greatest interest, both among the journalists and travel writers pursuing the idea of the ‘middle way’ and also the scholars who have researched international interest in and perceptions of the Nordic region (Andersson and Hilson 2009; Marklund 2009). International attention to Denmark and the other Nordic countries did not disappear, however, but was subsumed into wider notions of the Nordic region as a haven of democracy and stability in the turbulence of the late 1930s (Kurunmäki and Strang 2010). Two institutions in particular became synonymous with Danish developments and attracted widespread international attention: the Folk High Schools and the agricultural co-operative movement. Marquis Childs devoted a whole chapter of his book on Sweden to the Danish co-operatives, in the absence of suitable Swedish examples, while according to Christiansen the co-operative movement gained an almost iconic status in Det Danske Selskab (Christiansen 2009: 99; Childs 1936, ch. 10: “Denmark organises the Farm”).

The Danish co-operative movement was not actually a Danish invention, though it has sometimes been claimed as such.[vii] The emergence of co-operative societies in the second half of the nineteenth century was shaped by ideas from overseas, especially Germany and Britain where the Rochdale Equitable Society of Pioneers founded in 1844 became widely cited as a model for the foundation of co-operative societies (Hilson 2010). The first permanently successful consumer co-operative is normally assumed to be the Thisted Arbejderforening founded by a local pastor in northern Jutland (Christiansen 2012: 25). From the early 1880s co-operative principles – limited return on capital; members’ economic entitlements calculated in proportion to patronage not share capital; trade as far as possible with members – were also applied to associations of agricultural producers and the number of co-operative dairies and slaughterhouses grew rapidly (Christiansen 2012: 26).[viii] By the 1890s they were widespread: firmly established as part of everyday life in the countryside and widely regarded as a distinctive feature of Danish agriculture that had shaped its modernisation (Bjørn 1999: 14, 19). By combining in co-operative societies farmers were able to raise the capital required to allow them to take advantage of new technologies, such as the separator. The co-operative movement has therefore long been regarded by historians as being of crucial importance in the transition from a grain-based agriculture to one based on animal husbandry following the world agricultural depression of the 1870s (Iversen and Andersen 2008: 279; Mordhorst 2014). From the 1890s federations of co-operative dairies and slaughterhouses were organised, together with farmers’ societies for the supply of agricultural requisites such as fertiliser and machinery and export societies that were highly influential in standardising and marketing processed agricultural products such as butter, eggs and bacon for successful export to foreign markets, especially in Britain (Christiansen 2012: 31-2). All of these societies were co-ordinated by the Central Co-operative Committee or Andelsudvalget, founded in 1899 (Bjørn 1999: 29). By 1914 agricultural products – marketed under the brand Lur – constituted three quarters of total Danish exports (for discussion of the ‘Lur’ brand see Higgins and Mordhorst 2008). A very high proportion of these – between 80 and 90 percent according to most estimates – was produced by co-operatively organised agriculture (Christiansen 2012: 31-2).[ix] 

The film shows quality control processes in detail.

The conspicuous success of the Danish agricultural co-operative movement attracted foreign attention from the early twentieth century. Marquis Childs, who as we have already seen inserted a chapter on Denmark into his book about Sweden, attributed to the co-operative movement the “miraculous” change in Denmark’s fortunes following the disastrous defeat of 1864 (Childs 1936: 119). Another American writer, Frederic C Howe, noted that “co-operation pervades everything” in Denmark, and that the country had become “quite the most valuable political exhibit in the modern world,” which was of interest especially to the struggling farmers of the American West (Howe 1921: iii, vi). Co-operation had brought about “a peaceful revolution in fifty years” and chimed with the 1930s interest in the middle way. Denmark offered “a surprising admixture of extreme individualism, of voluntary coöperation, and of state capitalism” (Howe 1936: 13, 41). Meanwhile, the British writer and Liberal politician E D Simon described Denmark as naturally poor and lacking resources but as having been transformed by the co-operative movement (Simon 1939: 115). Although, as Musiał notes, from the 1930s foreign interest in Denmark was starting to be surpassed by that in Sweden, tours of co-operative dairies and bacon factories continued to form an essential part of the itinerary for reporters and writers visiting the region. It was therefore little surprise that the co-operative movement would feature strongly in efforts to create an image of Denmark for overseas consumption. The 1953 English-language book Freedom and Welfare, produced on the initiative of the Ministries for Social Affairs in all five Nordic countries, noted that the co-operative movement “has long been among those aspects of Northern life which have attracted most interest in the outside world,” and devoted a whole chapter to presenting it (Nelson 1953: 191).

By the time plans for The Pattern of Co-operation were first discussed in the late 1940s, however, the Danish agricultural sector faced a much more difficult situation. Depending for their prosperity on the export of processed products, farmers had been badly affected by falling international commodity prices from the summer of 1930; for example, butter prices fell by 35 percent and bacon by 50 percent in the summer and autumn of 1930 (Iversen and Andersen 2008: 293). Even more serious was the decision of several foreign governments to impose import restrictions: first Germany in 1929, and then catastrophically the UK, which in November 1932 introduced crippling import duties on butter and eggs and a quota on imports of bacon from countries outside the British Empire (Helmer Pedersen 1988: 137; see also Manniche 1952: 86, n. 26). Farmers initially responded by attempting to increase production, but incomes fell drastically. The 1930s thus saw a growing role for the Danish state in managing and regulating trade policy, partly through the devaluation of the Danish krone agreed as part of Kanslergadeforliget in 1933 and later by the imposition of production controls (Iversen and Andersen 2008; Helmer Pedersen 1988).

The period thus marked the completion of the transition from a liberal era where voluntary agricultural co-operative societies operated in largely unregulated markets, to one where they collaborated closely with the government. Leaders of the co-operative organisations sat on the government bodies established to regulate the sector and administer the export schemes (Nelson 1953: 219-220). They were also able to maintain their dominance of the agricultural sector: in 1953 it was estimated that co-operatives accounted for 90 percent of the milk delivered to dairies across the entire Nordic region, while in Denmark co-operatives were similarly dominant in the production of beef and bacon and accounted for approximately one third of egg sales (Nelson 1953: 221-222). In 1949 co-operatives still accounted for just over half of Danish butter exports and approximately one third of eggs and meat (Helmer Pedersen 1988: 147). Their significance was perhaps enhanced by the relatively small size of Danish farms; indeed, decentralisation in the sector increased around the mid twentieth century with a rise in the number of small family-owned farms (Iversen and Andersen 2008: 299). But the uncertainties facing Danish agriculture – and European agriculture more generally – in the post-war era, together with the shift towards a greater role for the state in the regulation of the economy, perhaps help to account for the rather more sober assessments of the significance of Danish co-operation after the war. Writing in 1952, Peter Manniche insisted that co-operatives had not transformed Danish society: private business continued to dominate especially in the urban areas, and the farmers continued to believe in the utility of an open, free-market economy. On the other hand, most Danish farmers and indeed most of the rural population were “environed by co-operation,” able to rely on their societies for most aspects of their business (Manniche 1952: 85).

The film project that would become The Pattern of Co-operation, then, has its roots in this post-war economic precarity and concomitant close collaboration between the co-operative societies and the Danish government. At the same time, as discussed above, the co-operative movement as a concept functioned both as an autostereotype (fundamental to the national self-image) and as a xenostereotype (one of the cultural trademarks of Denmark abroad) (for a discussion of these terms see Musiał 2002). Agricultural co-operation was therefore an obvious topic for a short film which would function both to market Danish produce and to contribute to cultural diplomacy. The working title for the project, Andels-Danmark (literally Co-operation-Denmark) indicates how inextricable was the conceptual link between nation and co-operation (see Mordhorst 2014).

The Pattern of Co-operation: The commissioning process

The film project was first discussed in March 1948, but it took over four years before the first English language version of the film had its premiere in July 1952. The relatively lengthy gestation period can be explained in part by a lack of clarity, or at least consensus, among the different parties involved regarding the focus and eventual audience for the film, and concomitant delays in approving successive versions of the screenplay. The commissioning and production history of The Pattern of Co-operation was particularly convoluted in that its origins can also be traced back to two separate originating briefs. This history serves as an example of how the agency of individual filmmakers could intersect with a variety of commissioning and producing bodies in complex ways.

The earliest recorded discussions on what would become The Pattern of Co-operation date from March 1948, when Kai Johansen of Landbrugsraadet (The Agricultural Committee) wrote to Ib Koch-Olsen, head of Dansk Kulturfilm. Johansen acted as a consultant for DKF on educational films on farming. He also led Landbrugets Filmraad, the Agricultural Film Council, which was amongst the many associations interested in film represented on DKF’s Board of Membership (Alsted 1987b: 239). The filmmaker Søren Melson had suggested that a short film about Danish dairies might be edited together from footage left over from his film Koen (The Cow, 1944). A letter from Emil Blytgen-Petersen, head of the Foreign Ministry’s Press Bureau, confirmed that he often received requests from abroad for an English-language film on Denmark’s co-operative dairies. Johansen asked Kristjan Bure, an archivist in the Foreign Ministry with an interest in film, to prepare a draft treatment of the topic (Johansen 1948; Blytgen-Petersen 1948). However, Johansen was of the opinion that a British director would best be able to gauge the tastes of the English-speaking public; Basil Wright was invited to Denmark to discuss the project in March 1949, but had to cancel due to illness (Nielsen 1948; Bure 1949).

In the meantime, in July 1948, Theodor Christensen discovered that the UN Film Board was planning a film about the co-operative movement. The UN Film Board was established very early in the UN’s history, even pre-dating UNESCO, and amongst its earliest heads was the Dane Mogens Skot-Hansen, who had previously led Ministeriernes Filmudvalg and later established Laterna Film. In Paris to screen his newly-completed Green Gold, the English version of his UN-sponsored documentary on the Swedish timber industry, Christensen learnt from his producer Jean Benoît-Lévy that he was minded to take the co-operative film out of American hands. Christensen quickly wrote to Ib Koch-Olsen to recommend that he bid for the co-operative film, arguing that such a film was “oplagt dansk” (an obvious film for Danes to make), given Denmark’s strong co-operative history, and represented an unrivalled opportunity to propagandize for Denmark abroad (Petterson 2014: 183). Though the UN Film Board would not fund the film, it would provide film stock, archival footage, and worldwide distribution. While The Pattern of Co-operation was not, in the end, made under the aegis of the UN, the tenet that the film should address overseas audiences and promote Denmark abroad remained constant throughout the production process.[x] Of crucial import here, however, is the political engagement of Theodor Christensen himself as filmmaker, and not least his understanding of the power of film as cultural diplomacy.[xi]

Christensen conceived of the co-operative film as a ‘Danmarksfilm,’ a peculiarly Danish feature-length genre showcasing national industries, traditions and landscape, the most famous and controversial of which is Poul Henningsen’s 1935 Danmark (see, for example, Linde-Laursen 1999). Christensen wished to shape his own effort around the co-operative movement as a central force in Danish history and society (Petterson 2014: 183). But the ambition to map Danish social and cultural life in the medium of film was to find its most forceful expression around 1950 in a different format: the short film series. The model of short films on specific Danish issues had been successfully trialled by MFU in the immediate post-war period, with a series of five short films under the rubric Social Denmark.[xii]Supervised by the British documentary pioneer Arthur Elton, Social Denmark was “deliberately produced with an eye to foreign countries, and as an experiment in post-war help and inspiration” on behalf of the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Statens Filmcentral 1948: 69). The series consisted of Carl Th. Dreyer’s 1942 short Mødrehjælpen (Good Mothers), and four films commissioned or re-worked for launch as English-language titles in 1947, describing social care from cradle to grave: Denmark Grows Up (dir. Hagen Hasselbalch, Astrid Henning-Jensen, Søren Melson), People’s Holiday(dir. Søren Melson) and Health for Denmark and The Seventh Age (both dir. Torben Anton Svendsen). It is indicative of the centrality of the co-operative movement to Danish life that a parallel series of films on Co-operative Denmark was conceived as one of several possible themed series in the late 1940s. The concept of the ‘series’ was a flexible one. The head of Dansk Kulturfilm, Ib Koch-Olsen, noted in early 1951 that thematic series were intended less as a distribution or marketing tool, and more as a strategic commitment to sustaining a particular theme, such as Danish business or cultural life, over the longer term (Koch-Olsen 1951, January 22).

Carl Th. Dreyers's Good Mothers (1942) was part of the Social Denmark series (1947).

Nevertheless, the conceptual tension between the series and the individual film, and what they could respectively achieve, underpinned some of the difficulty and delay in producing The Pattern of Co-operation. Christensen’s first manuscript draft (‘The Village Factory’) focused on innovation and rationalisation within the sector, on the assumption that successive films would detail different aspects of co-operative agriculture; this was rejected in March 1950 as too specific by MFU and its advisors. They also objected to two other aspects of the film (Bure 1950): it mooted co-operation as a solution to the current world food situation, a theme presumably inspired by the UN Film Board’s early involvement, and it featured a voiceover conceived as a dialogue between farmers and cows, a conceit which echoes Christensen’s experiment with giving a voice to the Little Mermaid in the contemporaneous Alle mine skibe (All My Ships, 1951). He then drafted a much more general version, which introduced the history of co-operation in Denmark via the story of three generations of farmers. Further progress on the film was delayed throughout 1950 for a number of reasons (Christensen 1951): by MFU’s rejection of this second version, by Christensen’s work on his Marshall Aid-funded films, by a dispute between Ib Koch-Olsen and Christensen in his capacity as chair of the filmmakers’ association Dansk Filmforbund, and not least by the tragic death of his son (Petterson 2014: 187-90). In summer 1951, filmmakers Ingolf Boisen and Finn Methling were invited to submit new drafts of the film; Christensen was encouraged to work with Methling to adapt his manuscript, and this served as the basis for the film that finally went into production in late August 1951 (Dansk Kulturfilm 1951, August 24).

It will be noted that the co-operative movement per se has so far been conspicuous by its absence in this narrative. In fact, not until November 1949 did Ib Koch-Olsen write directly to De danske Mejeriforeningers Fællesorganisation (the union of Danish dairy co-operatives) to orient them on plans for a film about their work. The letter seems to have been prompted by a press release a few days before, announcing that Christensen had started work on the manuscript; Koch-Olsen reassures the Dairies that both they and the Ministry of Agriculture will be consulted once a screenplay is in place (Dansk Kulturfilm 1949; Koch-Olsen 1949). During the approval process for the 1951 manuscript, the interests of the co-operative movement were primarily represented by Aage Axelsen Drejer, who was the Secretary of Andelsudvalget (the Central Co-operative Committee) from 1928 to 1961, and edited its journal Andelsbladet from 1940 to 1959 (Dansk biografisk leksikon). His role included a meeting to orient the filmmakers, and, later in the process, to approve and correct the manuscript and advise on local consultants and filming locations (Koch-Olsen 1951, May 19; Koch-Olsen 1951, August 21). He also arranged for a colleague to attend a test screening of the rushes to overseas students at the International People’s College in Elsinore in January 1952 (Dansk Kulturfilm 1952, January 14), and for a Danish-speaking co-operative specialist in London to approve the English voiceover text in January 1952 (Hølaas 1952).  Amongst these recorded instances of intervention, the minutes of a meeting during which Axelsen Drejer provided comments on the third version of the manuscript are particularly detailed, and give a sense of how the interests of the co-operative movement influenced the development of the film.

The comments by Axelsen Drejer on Christensen’s and Methling’s 1951 manuscript include straightforward corrections of fact, statistics, and distribution of tasks, but also in evidence throughout his remarks is a concern with making quality control visible in the film. For example, where the manuscript at shot 37 states that the dairy undertakes quality control of its butter (Christensen and Methling 1951b: 4), this is corrected to specify that this is the responsibility of the exporters. What is at stake here is a clear and accurate portrayal of the internationally-known ‘lurmærk’ or ‘lur-mark,’ which Axelsen Drejer explains is a guarantor of Danish quality awarded to dairies, and thus ought to be illustrated by footage of a butter quality check (Danks Kulturfilm 1951, August 22).

A similar focus on the reputation of Danish bacon abroad is evident in his requested alteration to the manuscript’s treatment of the slaughter of pigs. While the authors are concerned with how to portray the stages of slaughter and the built-in quality control without showing the visceral horrors of the process (Christensen and Methling 1951b: 12),[xiii] Axelsen Drejer insists that the film must clearly show how each internal organ of each and every animal is checked by a vet, who then stamps the quality control mark on the carcass himself (Dansk Kulturfilm 1951, August 22). We shall see presently how Christensen solved this issue. Also interesting is an intervention in the portrayal of N. F. S. Grundtvig in the manuscript. Axelsen Drejer asks for the poet-priest’s influence on the co-operative movement to be toned down, but for the folk high school movement’s more indirect role in the economic and democratic development of the Danish peasantry to be acknowledged (Dansk Kulturfilm 1951, August 22: 3).[xiv] Thus, aside from the focus on communicating the meticulous quality control adopted by co-operatives to potential consumers abroad, there is also a concern with the accuracy of historical detail regarding the origins of Danish co-operation. In this sense, an awareness on Axelsen Drejer’s part of the film’s dual role in marketing Danish produce and Danish values is clear. Less clear is his understanding of the limitations of the audio-visual medium. However, he was willing to compromise on realism for the sake of the film’s marketability abroad, accepting, for example, that casting a young, photogenic farmer and including his (fictional) children in the film would increase the appeal of the film, though an older man would have been more typical (Koch-Olsen 1951, August 28).

The photogenic lead, a real farmer by the name of Clausen, was thought to be too young by Axelsen Drejer, but was cast in order to appeal to an international audience.

The final cut

Storylines, conceits and motifs mooted in successive versions of the screenplay have something to tell us about the contested ideas about co-operation that were in circulation in post-war Denmark. Nevertheless, it is the ‘final cut’ of the film, the approved version that circulates out in the world, that crystallises this chaos into some semblance of order, a filter through which Danish co-operation is mediated to foreign audiences.

A red thread running through successive versions of the manuscript, from Bure’s very first draft (Hasselbalch 1949), is the idea of the ‘kredsløb’ or cycle that connects co-operative farmers with their produce and with the overseas consumer.  In Christensen and Methling’s preface to their second manuscript draft in August 1951, the term ‘kredsløb’ is used explicitly, and its narrative purpose explained as follows:

Filmen søger at skildre andelsbevægelsen i store cirkler, som et kredsløb, der ikke blot fyldbyrder sig een gang, men som gør det igen og igen [...] Menneskelighed er et forslidt ord, men i denne billedmæssigt ret ukomplicerede film bliver interessen fastholdt af spændingen mellem det menneskelige på den ene side og alle de store ting på den anden: Udenrigshandel, samfund, rigsdag, folkestyre, historie. Over for disse store spørgsmål har vi kun den enkelte at sætte; filmens spænding og udløsning skabes derfor ved at vi gang på gang viser, cirkel for cirkel, at den enkelte – bonde eller andelsforening – ikke virker som en flaskehals, men måske overraskende for mange, bidrager frugtbart til at komme “de store” problemers løsning nærmere. (Christensen and Methling 1951b)

The film seeks to depict the co-operative movement in great circles, like a cycle that completes itself not just once, but again and again [...] Humanity is a worn-out word, but in this visually rather uncomplicated film, the interest is held by the tension between the human on the one hand and all the larger matters on the other: foreign trade, society, parliament, democracy, history. In the face of these great issues our only tool is the individual; the film’s tension and resolution is thus created by showing again and again, circle after circle, that the individual – farmer or co-operative – does not act as a bottleneck, but, perhaps surprisingly for many, contributes greatly to progress towards solving the “great” problems of the day.

The individual farmer and his produce are part of a larger pattern of co-operation.

Indeed, the narrative organisation of the film chimes with the trope of following people and goods as they circle out into the wider world and back again. Beginning with the young farmer in his study, we move with his milk out along the road to the dairy, and thence (by way of an animated map) across the Danish nation and out into the world on various forms of transport, before returning to the local co-operative committee and to the farm from where we started. From here we follow the path of an egg out into the world, and so on. After the raw milk has been processed into butter and cheese in the dairy, the skimmed milk returns to the farm to be fed to the pigs. The second part of the film centres on the local co-operative store, where the origin or processing of a series of co-operatively produced items takes the viewer repeatedly out to the factory or shipyard and back again to the store. Towards the end, we journey into social institutions and through the history of Danish co-operative organisation as a form of democracy, before ending back at the farm where we began. In the approved English-language voiceover, this motif is even verbalised: if we follow the farmer or his goods, we are “moving along channels of co-operation.” By the end of the film, the scripted voice declares: “The growing pattern of co-operation will never be completed. It was created spontaneously and out of respect for the Individual” (Schibsbye 1952). The farmer, his family, his colleagues, and all the workers along the way are thus caught up in synchronic and diachronic patterns of co-operation.

Subjective and objective camera movement

Even more subtle than the narrative structure and voiceover, however, is the camerawork. In their first common draft, Christensen and Methling discuss in depth their strategic use of “subjective” and “objective” camera movement to underline the planned cyclical logic of the film:

Kameralinsen er tilskuerens øje, den subjektive kameraføring placerer altså tilskueren direkte i kameraets sted, han føler sig næsten til stede i den pågældende situation. Det “objektive” kamera derimod skifter synsvinkel med filmteknikkens almindelige lethed og frihed, fungerer som en iaggtager, der kan være mange steder på een gang. Hensigten med så tydeligt som her at skifte mellem disse to former for kameraføring er at skabe et naturligt spændingsforhold mellem “objektiv” virkelighed – kendsgerninger – og virkeligheden, sådan som tilskueren oplever den under sin søgen efter andelsbevægelsens ide og “regeringsform.” Tilskueren skal ikke lægge mærke til overgangene. (Christensen and Methling 1951a)

The camera lens is the viewer’s eye. The subjective camera movement therefore sites the viewer directly in the place of the camera; he feels almost as though he is present in the situation. The “objective” camera, on the other hand, shifts the perspective with the usual lightness and freedom of film technology, functioning as an observer who can be many places at once. The purpose of shifting so obviously between these two kinds of camera movement is to create a natural tension between “objective” reality – facts – and reality as it is experienced by the viewer during his quest to understand the idea behind the co-operative movement and how it is organised. The viewer should not notice this shift.

There are sequences in the film where the “subjective” camera movement described here is indeed quite palpable. The opening credits roll over a dolly shot of almost a full minute – actually from a truck travelling down a long straight road towards the farm. The camera pans left, creeps round the farm, and as night falls, peers through an open window and joins the young farmer at his desk. Similar extended shots from the back or cabin of vans as goods travel from farm to processing centre to transport hub are frequent throughout the film, emphasising that the pattern of co-operation is dependent on goods moving across space. The subjective camera also recurs when we move to witness co-operative meetings, first peering through an open window at a small group around a kitchen table. Later, the viewer experiences a more formal regional assembly, where the camera gingerly takes a seat at the back of the hall, amid a fug of smoke, turning to examine the backs, shoulders and profiles of the characters around, and wandering up and down the aisle. The (foreign) viewer is thus constructed as a newcomer or outside, a little unsure perhaps, but – crucially – incorporated into the space of the event.

Clip from The Pattern of Co-operation.

Another important visual trope in the film is the motif of circles, cylinders, orbs and circular motion, often filling the screen or moving across it.  Examples include bottle tops, revolving and rolling barrels, milk being churned in vats, large round cheeses, eggs stacked or tumbling through machinery, spinning bobbins and reels, orb-shaped ceiling lamps, and the circular atrium of Axelborg, the headquarters of the various Danish agricultural organisations. These are all objects or processes central to the reality documented, but nevertheless constitute an abstract visual litany of the “kredsløb” concept.

Clip from The Pattern of Co-operation.

A notable exception to this visual pattern comes with the depiction of bacon production, the same scene Axelsen Drejer insisted must demonstrate that every animal’s every organ is inspected. To fulfil this remit, the slaughterhouse sequence opens with a travelling shot introducing the modern brick structures of the building’s exterior. A slaughtered pig is cleaned by an automated scrubbing and rinsing process. The animal is shown being disembowelled and its internal organs quickly carried off to a bench for biopsy testing. The carcass is closely inspected by a vet. Then a hand stamps the Danish quality mark on the animal’s flank, and it is pushed into place on a rack. The camera begins to track left, revealing a seemingly endless row of identical hanging pig carcasses, each with the stamp visible. The genius of this sequence – its ability to communicate that vast numbers of pigs are efficiently killed, cleaned and inspected to ensure “uniform quality,” as the voiceover says – lies in the visual contrast with the circle motif that permeates the rest of the film. Another contrast is the dark background of the slaughterhouse, whereas the rest of the locations have been predominantly rather bright. The abstract pattern here is the striking contradiction of organic porcine forms hanging in stringent verticality – uniform quality and appearance constitute “beauty in bacon,” as the voiceover playfully declares.

Clip from The Pattern of Co-operation.

Having summarised the co-operative movement’s links to folk high schools and the development of Danish democracy, the camera starts to reverse the centripetal, inward motion that has structured the film’s rhythms. Reiterating the film’s visual emphasis on “beauty in bacon” as a cipher for quality, this process starts by tracking out of the slaughterhouse, backwards between neat rows of identikit pig carcasses hanging like fleshy curtains in the dark. We zoom back from the historical tableaux of co-operative pioneers, backing out of the store, dollying back from the farmer’s office window, and trundling back along the road away from the farm, though this time gazing backwards from the truck to book-end the film by reversing the opening shot.

Overall, the film showcases Christensen’s facility with unexpected camera movement and angles, his ability to incorporate abstract patternings into an otherwise realist tableau, and his concern to render visible the skills of the individual worker. In its use of such non-verbal information, the film is primed for its multilingual afterlife – underlying whichever voiceover text is later imposed upon it is a complex and consistent visual iteration of the circles connecting the individual and the collective, as envisaged in successive drafts. In its experimentation with “subjective” and “objective” camerawork, the film also strategically posits the viewer as sometimes inside, sometimes outside the community thus constructed, the contrast between these states producing a sense of invitation to learning for those viewers to whom it was directed, out in the world.


Two successive press releases from Dansk Kulturfilm in summer 1952 track the foreign and domestic premieres of The Pattern of Co-operation. Ten copies were made available to Danish embassies and other institutes in the English-speaking world. Axelsen Drejer presided over the British premiere at the end of July, which, unusually, took place in the Orkney Islands. The screening was organised in conjunction with a lecture he was scheduled to deliver on behalf of the Danish co-operative movement at The Danish-Orcadian Agricultural Conference. The co-operative journal Andelsbladet reported that the reception of the film on that occasion suggested that the film would have a beautiful career as a spokesman for Denmark, being accurate and comprehensive, and illuminating all the more important areas of co-operative production and trade (Dansk Kulturfilm 1952, September 1). The Danish premiere, in line with most MFU/DKF films, took the form of a screening of four new short films, at the Dagmar cinema in Copenhagen at the end of August (Dansk Kulturfilm 1952, July 22 and August 28). At this point, the film had also been taken to Edinburgh for the International Film Festival, at which Christensen was a frequent and well-known guest, and so an extra 35mm copy had to be procured in a hurry by Ove Sevel head of the production company Nordisk Film Junior (Nielsen 1952, August 13).

The Danish reviews after the premiere were largely positive, though several critiqued the film for a lack of originality (Dansk Kulturfilm 1952, September 1). The newspaper Information’s reviewer was perhaps the most thoughtful in his comments along these lines, praising Christensen’s style and his ability to bring to life the Danish countryside as well as its machines and people. However, he bemoaned the tension between artistry and fact in informational film: “We can admire the passion with which the director has sought a purely cinematic solution, but it fails in the final analysis, simply because someone or other has obviously wanted all the facts to be respected. This is the dilemma of documentary film.”[xv] Danish reviewers were thus a knowing audience, savvy about the constraints on government-sponsored filmmakers’ creativity and also attentive to the distinctions between films for Danish and foreign audiences respectively.

Voice-over and foreign-language versions

There is a final layer of text that again destabilises the ‘final cut’ of the film: its multiple language versions. As planned, The Pattern of Co-operation was produced in British English first, followed in 1954 by 16mm versions with French and German voiceover, under the titles Le mouvement coopératif danois and Ein Beispiel von Zusammenarbeit. As was normal practice, one copy of each of these was made available to the Foreign Ministry’s Press Bureau for lending to overseas embassies, cultural institutes, or other organisations or individuals, with the possibility of ordering further copies from Nordisk Film Junior A/S as required (Statens Filmcentral, n.d.).

Typically for MFU films intended primarily for the anglophone market, the voiceover text was written and edited in English to correspond to the final cut of the film. What Christensen and Methling (1951b: 1-2) refer to as the painstaking work of matching word choice and sentence length to the rhythms of camera movement and editing had to be undertaken not only with the English voiceover, but for each foreign-language version. The need for multiple language versions of films was therefore the driver for a widespread adoption of voiceover amongst MFU directors; any inclusion of filmed dialogue in the films would entail either re-shooting scenes or foreign-language dubbing, a more complex and costly undertaking than the wholesale recording of a film’s translated voiceover text. This method also entailed significant challenges and costs of its own. Translations into the other required languages were made from the English text, often by Embassy staff rather than professional translators, and approved by consultants.[xvi]

The choice of a suitable ‘voice’ for the different versions of the films was recognised as an important factor in its success abroad. After extensive consultation, the English cricket commentator John Arlott was flown to Copenhagen to record the voiceover for The Pattern of Co-operation. The choice was based on the solicited advice of Sinclair Road, a leading figure in the British documentary scene:

You can either go for a good “standard” voice with no particular accent. Or you might pick a commentator with an accent which gives country associations, though not too strongly. Having seen the film, I personally would think that the latter would be the better bet from your point of view. One person who occurs to me is a man called John Arlott. He is quite a well known BBC commentator, mainly of sporting events with an emphasis on cricket. He also does occasional farming programmes, and does have a noticeable West Country accent. The fact that his name is known may be of certain value in the distribution of the film. (Road 1952)

Indeed, not only did Arlott’s accent have the right rural connotations and familar authority for the British market, his fame even enabled him to act as ambassador for the film before it was released, in an article for the Evening News, as the Danish newspaper Politiken in turn gleefully reported in June 1952 (Sevel 1952).

Correspondence with co-operative organisations in the Netherlands illuminates a particularly interesting example of how a foreign-language version of The Pattern of Co-operation was also hampered by artistic and technological constraints. In October 1952 – thus very quickly after the film’s launch – the Danish consul in Den Haag approached the Danish Foreign Ministry on behalf of Nederlandse Verbruikscoöperaties (the Dutch consumer co-operative organisation) to request a Dutch-language version. The letter gives some insight into the context in which overseas co-operative organisations were using the English-language version of the film. Nederlandse Verbruikscoöperaties consisted of some 300 branches, all of which organised meetings for education and entertainment at which the film could be screened (Udenrigsministeriet 1952). By July 1953, the Dutch were still interested, writing again with the suggestion that a Dutch version could be produced in The Netherlands using the same new technology with which they had recently made a version of the Swedish film Scandinavian Co-operation, made by the Swedish Co-operative Union (Kooperativa Förbundet, KF) (Afdeling Publiciteit Nederlandse Verbuikscoöperaties 1953).

Animated map is used to show the growth of co-operative farming in Denmark.

The delay of almost one year before a detailed response from the Danish side is of interest because it underlines the extent to which the artistic integrity of MFU’s films was prized over potential wide circulation in a new market. The solution laid down by MFU admits that its desire is to protect the film’s artistic quality, to which end a new version under the supervision of the director would be best. It offers to provide a particular combination of a 16mm copy plus a 35mm soundtrack, in order to guarantee, as far as possible, the quality of the music and sound effects, the film’s soundtrack being regarded as particularly complex. The Dutch voiceover script would have to be approved by MFU and a voiceover artist approved by the Danish consul in Den Haag (Hølaas 1953). This version was approved by MFU at the end of 1954, but not without reservations about the quality of the sound and about the balance of authority on questions of distribution between MFU and the Foreign Ministry (Ministeriernes Filmudvalg 1954). The episode demonstrates how control over the artistic quality of the films was paramount for MFU, in a rapidly-changing technological context and an unexpectedly keen demand for multiple language versions.

Translation is not only a matter of interlingual transfer, but is also a function of the vagaries of technology, politics and culture. Statens Filmcentral’s records cover another aspect of the ‘afterlife’ of the English-language version of The Pattern of Co-operation: that is, not only the completed foreign-language versions, but also Danish and US-specific versions which were discussed but never realised.

During the process of approving the English-language script, the Danish Agricultural Attaché in the US Embassy, a C. F. Knudsen, was asked whether the text would work on that side of the Atlantic. Aside from some anodyne remarks about replacing ‘dairy’ with ‘creamery,’ he extrapolated at some length about the difficulty of exporting knowledge of Danish co-operative agriculture to the US, a culture which saw private business and the free market as king (Knudsen  1952). The work of public diplomacy was constrained here by the local political culture – or perhaps more precisely, in this case, by the Danish diplomatic service’s response to that local culture. Advice was also sought from Mogens Skot-Hansen, at the UN Film Board, who explained the situation clearly:

You might know that many people in this country consider the cooperative movement as something which is socialistic. It is to a certain point in boycott [sic] in the newspapers and magazines as one of the dangerous attacks upon free enterprise. So we will have to accept the fact that such a picture will be considered as controversial. This does not mean that I would advise against an American version. Such pictures are certainly needed in the USA today. But it will give you an impression of the difficulties we are up against (Skot-Hansen 1952). 

Between the first discussions between Christensen and Benoît-Lévy in Paris in 1948, and the final stages of the film’s production in 1952, the US had been gripped by its ‘Second Red Scare.’ Advisers concurred that no matter how carefully the voiceover was Americanised, a film on the co-operative movement as a proxy for Danish culture would simply not work in McCarthy’s America. Plans for a US version were quietly shelved until such time as the Danish Foreign Ministry determined the time was right to pursue the matter further (Dansk Kulturfilm 1953, June 11). This pragmatic decision implicitly circumscribes the role of film in cultural diplomacy: the risks of deploying an autostereotype (co-operation) in an incompatible political culture outweighed the benefits of proselytising for the Danish socio-political order.

In contrast, the film’s success in the quite different socio-political environment of Canada is striking. Statens Filmcentral’s annual report for 1952-53 records the shipment of no fewer than thirty copies of the film to Canada (Statens Filmcentral 1952-53: 14), from where positive reviews quickly arrived. The Danish representation in Ottawa passed on praise from the Manitoba Federation of Agriculture and Co-operation, the Alberta Wheat Pool, and Senator Vaillancourt of Quebec; the film was expected to be one of the most popular in the embassy’s film library (Nielsen 1953, February 2). Ironically, this enthusiastic interest from Canada was misrepresented in a press release as interest from the USA (Dansk Kulturfilm 1953, March 4).

A final example of a version which was mooted but never came to fruition helps us to flesh out how the film was received (or rather, not) by audiences within the international co-operative movement. As discussed above, The Pattern of Co-operation was not made under the auspices of the co-operative movement, and was intended to promote Danish culture and business abroad rather than inform the initiated about the finer details of agricultural organisation in Denmark. Nevertheless, as we have seen above, there is evidence that the film was distributed in circuits which had been established by earlier experiments in the use of films in co-operative education: for example, its Orkney premiere, and its popularity in The Netherlands and Canada.[xvii] A final example of an unrealised version of The Pattern of Co-operation is a Danish-language version; here, we come full circle and see underscored, again, the film’s intended role as propaganda for Denmark rather than propaganda for the co-operative movement.

 In January 1954, Koch-Olsen and Axelsen Drejer bumped into each other in a central Copenhagen street and exchanged a few words on a possible Danish version of the film (Drejer 1954). The ensuing written correspondence reveals an interesting clash of perspectives on whether the film had the potential to be used by the co-operative movement in Denmark in its own educational work. Axelsen Drejer argued that the film would only benefit an urban Danish audience with little prior knowledge of co-operation; such an audience was the domestic equivalent of the foreign audiences to which the film was originally commissioned to appeal. Therefore, the co-operative movement in Denmark would not finance a Danish version, as the function of such a film would fall outside its remit. Koch-Olsen agreed that the film’s value would lie in education of children and adults in social studies and citizenship, but that it was only reasonable that the co-operative movement should contribute, since MFU had fully funded the original film. Probably, the stakes in this exchange were more about money than pedagogical principles, or any realistic assessment of the urban-rural divide at the time, for the film did circulate in Denmark in its English-language form. Statens Filmcentral kept one 16mm copy and one 35mm copy to lend out as required to schools and organisations; its annual reports from the 1950s record a handful of instances each year when the film was hired, primarily by organisations, and each instance of hire could represent up to 40-50 screenings to unrecorded numbers of viewers (Statens Filmcentral 1952-56). It is not recorded whether the hiring bodies were indeed co-operative societies with prior knowledge of the movement, or outsiders. Regardless, Axelsen Drejer’s stance on funding a Danish version ensured that the responsibility for this film project remained in the hands of the Danish Government’s Film Committee, and that the function of the film remained squarely overseas cultural diplomacy.


The foregoing discussion of the circulation of The Pattern of Co-operation at home and abroad reveals how little we know of the film’s impact on its viewers. As this article has shown, the parties involved in making this and other state-commissioned films in post-war Denmark shared an ambition to produce films that would respond to the expressed interest of contacts abroad. The approval process was designed to accommodate the advice of consultants in the relevant field as well as those with knowledge of the target markets. At various stages of the filmmaking process, actors ranging from consultants to filmmakers to critics explicitly take into account the assumed tastes and prior knowledge of foreign audiences. Underlying the entire exercise is a conviction of the power of film in marketing Denmark abroad. While film was just one tool in the arsenal of the Foreign Ministry, the diplomatic service and such institutions as Det danske Selskab or Danish Cultural Institutes, the resources ploughed into state-supported informational film in Denmark were recognised abroad in the post-war period as securing exceptional results. The British documentary pioneer Basil Wright, for example, declared as early as 1947: “since the war [...] we have been made increasingly aware of the highly organised documentary movement in Denmark, a movement which in its contribution to Danish life has had an influence more comparable to the documentary movement in Britain than any other country” (Wright 1947).

Nevertheless, assessing the impact of The Pattern of Co-operation and films like it is methodologically challenging, whether in qualitative or quantitative terms. Neither newspaper reviews, letters of praise from embassies, nor film hire records tell us anything about how the film transformed opinions of Denmark, increased sales of Danish bacon, or affected the individual viewer’s understanding of the co-operative movement. Part of the problem here is the open-ended nature of much public diplomacy: the success of the expressed aim of promoting Danish culture or goods abroad cannot be measured in concrete terms.

As we hope to have shown, however, what we can do is shed light on the mechanics of cultural diplomacy through close analysis of the media objects produced under the aegis of national actors. In the particular case of The Pattern of Co-operation, the impact of intervention by economic and political interests can be traced in the film text: for example, the distinctive stylisation of pig carcasses can be attributed to Axelsen Drejer’s insistence that the film render visible the high quality and hygiene standards in Danish bacon production. This case study also provides ample evidence that exacting æsthetic standards in film production were an integral part of public diplomacy strategy, to the extent that they were, at times, prioritised over reaching a wider audience. Ultimately, film-based public diplomacy was not just about selling Danish bacon – it was about selling “beauty in bacon.”


[i] The opening titles credit The Government Film Committee, i.e. MFU, as the financing body; in practice, Dansk Kulturfilm and MFU worked as one entity, at this time under the administrative leadership of Ib Koch-Olsen.

[ii] Co-operative societies had begun to experiment with the use of film around the turn of the century as part of their educational and information services for their members and by the 1920s many co-operative organizations, including those in Denmark, were producing their own films about their businesses. See Burton 1994; for a contemporary (1920s) discussion of the use of film in the co-operative movement see Toivonen 1927. The use of film by the co-operative movement itself is not, however, the focus of this article.

[iii] For example, Ruth Hemstad (2014: 16) uses it to describe the efforts of the Norwegian and Swedish governments to influence public opinion especially in Britain during the upheavals of 1814.

[iv] Cull 2008 proposes a taxonomy of five different types of public diplomacy: listening, advocacy, cultural diplomacy, exchange diplomacy, international broadcasting.

[v] Examples include For Folkets Fremtid (dir. Søren Melson et al., 1943), distributed in Germany as Das soziale Gesicht Dänemarks, and Bjarne Henning-Jensen’s Hesten (also 1943), commissioned by the Ministry of Agriculture’s Horse Export Committee.

[vi] For a summary of this development in English, see Thomson (forthcoming). A comprehensive account in Danish is provided by Alsted & Nørrested (1987). For discussion of comparable use of film as instrument of national education in other Scandinavian countries, see for example Hedling and Jönsson 2008; Sørenssen 1980.

[vii] In a publication produced by the Danish co-operative movement itself, J. Th. Arnfred insisted that co-operation was not discovered (“ikke opfundne”) in Denmark, though it had taken on its own distinctive Danish characteristics (Drejer 1943 [1929]: 22). For a discussion of co-operation in Danish national identity see Mordhorst 2014.

[viii] For a discussion of the Danish co-operative principles see Drejer (1943 [1929]: 19). The Danish agricultural co-operatives operated on the principle of ‘solidarisk Ansvar’ or unlimited liability for all the members in the co-operative.

[ix] The American writer Frederic C. Howe cited an official enquiry in Denmark in 1923 that found co-operative dairies accounted for 90% of farms and 86% of cows (Howe 1936: 72).

[x] Almost simultaneously, from mid-May 1948 onwards, Koch-Olsen was engaged in wrangles with the filmmaker Ingolf Boisen, who was trying to persuade Koch-Olsen to allow the UN Film Board to sponsor his film They Guide You Across (1949). It may well be that this experience led Koch-Olsen to exclude the possibility of UN collaboration in the context of the co-operative film when it was suggested by Christensen a month later – though no written sources explicitly indicate this. (Various letters, telegrams, notes on telephone conversations. ‘Distribution og FNs sponsorship (inkl. forevisninger),’ ‘They Guide You Across,’ Filmsager, SFC, RA.).

[xi] For more on the life and works of Theodor Christensen, see Petterson 2014, and the extensive coverage in Kosmorama 253 and 254.

[xii] While the working title Andels-Danmark echoes the series title of Social Denmark, the broader conceptual context of the film series also goes some way to explaining the curious title of the finished film. In a typewritten list of ideas for the film series discussed above in Theodor Christensen’s archive, he has jotted down in pen his own ideas for series and individual films (‘The Pattern of Co-operation,’ skuffe 6, Theodor Christensen samling, DFI). The word ‘pattern’ turns up again here, in the handwritten phrase ‘Pattern of Denmark’; it is not clear whether this was a possible series title or film title, but the words ‘the farm’ and ‘the West Coast’ scribbled underneath suggest a concern with topography or geographic patternings. One possible explanation is that the title of each film in the proposed series would have featured the word ‘pattern.’ It is also tempting to speculate that the word ‘pattern,’ which is not quite natural English, is a mistranslation of the Danish word ‘mønster,’ a word which encompasses a sense of ‘model’ and thus would imply that Danish co-operation (like the Danish social order more generally) could function as a ‘model’ for other cultures.

[xiii] For a discussion of the ‘Lur’ brand (named after a Viking-age musical instrument) see Higgins and Mordhorst 2008, who show the importance of government intervention to develop and defend a national brand and trademark combined, as a guarantee of the quality of Danish butter and bacon.

[xiv] The textbook on Danish co-operation edited by Drejer also notes that foreign visitors to Denmark often over-estimated the influence of the Folk High Schools, rather than seeing them as separate movements (Drejer 1943 [1929]: 22).

[xv] “Man kan beundre den ildhu, hvormed instruktøren har søgt den rent filmiske løsning, men det endelige spring er fejlet, simpelthen fordi en eller anden har ønsket alle oplysningerne respekteret. Det er dokumentarfilmens dilemma.” ‘Sjælden dokumentarfilm,’ Information, 1.9.52.

[xvi] As in any act of translation, even a literal rendering of a stretch of text could involve significant changes in the length of sentences; the language would have to be altered to fit the film, not vice versa. Although voiceover scripts for The Pattern of Co-operation in French and German have been preserved, the film versions have not. It is therefore not possible to analyse how the emphasis or details of the texts might have been altered ad hoc during the recording process, due to the constraints imposed by mis-matches between sentence length and cuts.

[xvii] Internationally, the co-operative movement had made extensive use of film in education since the turn of the century. Burton traces the pioneering role of local co-operative groups in the UK, for example (Burton 1994: 12, 19-20), and notes (25-6) that the British Co-operative Wholesale Society had its own film department from 1940 to 1966.



(abbreviations:  DFI = Danish Film Institute; DKF = Dansk Kulturfilm; MFU = Ministeriernes Filmudvalg; RA = Rigsarkivet; SFC = Statens Filmcentral)

Afdeling Publiciteit Nederlandse Verbuikscoöperaties (1953, July 28) [letter to Oplysningsudvalget, Fællesforeningen for Danmarks Brugsforeninger]. ‘The Pattern of Co-operation: Versioner (amerikansk, dansk, hollandsk)’. Filmsager, SFC, RA.

Alsted, Christian (1987a). “Store visioner -- ingen resultater. Dansk Kulturfilm 1932-35.” In: Alsted, Christian and Nørrsested, Carl (ed): Kortfilmen og staten. København, Eventus, pp. 112-136.

Alsted, Christian (1987b). “Store projekter, lederskifte og store bevillinger. DK og MFU efter befrielsen.” In: Alsted, Christian and Nørrsested, Carl (ed): Kortfilmen og staten. København,  Eventus, pp. 225-268.

Alsted, Christian and Carl Nørrested (ed) (1987). Kortfilmen og staten. København, Eventus.

Andersson, Jenny & Hilson, Mary (2009). “Images of Sweden and the Nordic Countries.” Scandinavian Journal of History, 34 (3): 219-228.

Bjørn, Claus (1999). Fortid med fremtid. Danske Andelsselskaber 100 år 1899-1999. København, Danske Andelsselskaber. 

Blytgen-Petersen, E. (1948, March 11) [letter on behalf of Udenrigsministeriets Pressebureau to Ib Koch-Olsen, DKF]. ‘Korrespondance og notater vedr. forløbet,’ ‘The Pattern of Co-operation I,’ Filmsager, SFC, RA.

Bure, Kristjan (1949, March 7) [letter to Ib Koch-Olsen,  with attached note]. ‘Korrespondance og notater vedr. forløbet,’ ‘The Pattern of Co-operation I,’ Filmsager, SFC, RA.

Bure, Kristjan (1950, January 23) [letter to Ib Koch-Olsen, DKF]. ‘Korrespondance og notater vedr. forløbet,’ ‘The Pattern of Co-operation I,’ Filmsager, SFC, RA.

Burton, Alan (1994). The People’s Cinema: Film and the Co-operative Movement. London, National Film Theatre.

Childs, Marquis (1936). Sweden – the Middle Way. New Haven, Yale University Press.

Christensen, Theodor (1951, March 8) [letter in duplo]. ‘The Pattern of Co-operation,’ skuffe 6, Theodor Christensen samling, DFI.

Christensen, Theodor and Finn Methling (1951a). Drejebog (1. udgave, juli 1951). ‘Manuskripter og materiale,’ ‘The Pattern of Co-operation II,’ Filmsager, SFC, RA.

Christensen, Theodor and Finn Methling (1951b). Andelsfilmen: Drejebog nr. 2, August 1951. ‘Manuskripter og materiale,’ ‘The Pattern of Co-operation II,’ Filmsager, SFC, RA.

Christiansen, Niels Finn (2009). Grænseløs kulturudveksling: Det Danske Kulturinstitut i 70 år. København, Aristo Bogforlag.

Christiansen, Niels Finn (2012). “Denmark’s road to modernity and welfare: The co-operative way”. In: Mary Hilson, Pirjo Markkola and Ann-Catrin Östman (eds), Co-operatives and the Social Question: The Co-operative Movement in Northern and Eastern Europe (1880-1950), pp. 25-40.

Cull, Nicholas J (2008). “Public Diplomacy: Taxonomies and Histories.” The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 616: 31-54.

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Kildeangivelse: Thomson, C. Claire and Hilson, Mary (2014): Beauty in Bacon: "The Pattern of Co-operation" and the export of postwar Danish democracy. Kosmorama #255 (

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