At 9.45am today [Feb 7], in a deal likely to have far-reaching implications for Scandinavian cinema, Nordisk Film bought a 50% share in Danish outfit Zentropa. The alliance is expected to provide extra resources for Zentropa, which was founded in 1992 by Peter Aalbaek Jensen (pictured above) and Lars Von Trier, as the company embarks on an ambitious production drive.

The deal comes weeks after the announcement that Zentropa's sales arm Trust Film Sales had established an informal relationship with Nordisk Film International Sales.

'They (Nordisk) are very good in Scandinavia and we are very good outside Scandinavia. We thought why don't we tie these things up so we can generate a north European mini-studio,' Jensen told Screen International in an exclusive interview.

Danish major Nordisk is one of the oldest Scandinavian companies. It has been expanding aggressively in recent months, buying 50% of Swedish company SS Fladen and a similar stake in Finnish company, Solarfilms.

'We really like the idea of creating a decentralised studio where we have
different creative environments where different sorts of projects can develop,' said Michael Ritto, managing director of Nordisk Film.

Zentropa has a reputation as a young maverick outfit, championing adventurous work from directors like Von Trier, Susanne Bier and Lone Scherfig. In recent years, though, the company has struggled to support all the filmmakers working under its umbrella. 'In the first years, it was only Lars Von Trier that went abroad with bigger budgets, but now we have Susanne Bier and a couple of other directors. If they all want to make films at the same time, we don't have the money.'

Bier is shortly to embark on Julius, a drama about a Holocaust survivor which Jensen says will have a budget of in excess of 10 million Euros. The screenplay for the project, to be produced by Sisse Graum, is now complete and Zentropa is currently putting together financing. The company is also readying various other big-budget projects, among them Von Trier's AntiChrist.

Zentropa is already setting up outposts across Europe. Having established a presence in Berlin, it is to set up 'Zentropa Amsterdam' and is also looking for a base in Eastern Europe. With Nordisk as a partner, Zentropa is likely to expand further abroad.

Asked what Lars Von Trier felt about Zentropa losing its independence and
Jensen joked: 'He has been a spoiled child for many years in this company. Now, we will have the money also to spoil some other directors.'