Danish filmmaker gets through his daughter’s death with help from his cast and crew
A conversation with Thomas Vinterberg about his celebrated new film, “Another Round,” starts typically like any other. His inspiration? A realization that so many of history’s major accomplishments in numerous fields were by people who were, for lack of a better description, extremely intoxicated.
“So many boozers,” Vinterberg says with what we can only imagine is a smile on the other line of a transatlantic conversation. “I found it fascinating that this socially accepted substance can elevate people to do very inspirational and fantastical things and yet can still kill people and destroy families or societies.”
In Copenhagen, where Vinterberg lives, there is even an annual rite of passage called the Lake Run, which finds teenagers charged with running around a nearby lake and emptying a box of beer. Parents in North America might find this horrifying, but in Denmark their teachers are there, we assume, to make sure things don’t get too out of hand. Realizing how alien this might seem to some viewers outside of his native country, Vinterberg begins “Another Round” with a fictional version of this event. A perfect snapshot of Danish drinking culture for a film that wonders if the consequences of such actions are taken seriously enough.
But, back to the Danish cinematic auteur. His thoughts on reuniting with Mads Mikkelsen, the star of his Cannes winning drama “The Hunt”? A given, considering their tight friendship over the years. And the ideal actor to play a middle-aged teacher who is so disconnected from his students that they openly mock him without recourse. A character whose long-lost passion, however, is rekindled when he and three of his colleagues decide to experiment with a bit of alcohol to kick-start their mundane day jobs.
“I’ve played drunks before in various stages, but it is a challenge because it’s so obvious when you don’t nail it,” Mikkelsen says. “When you nail it, we all take it for granted; when you don’t nail it, it’s just standing out, right? The secret to playing drunk is that you’re trying not to be drunk, and that’s the way we always approached it.”
In a perfect award season world, Mikkelsen would earn serious lead actor consideration for his depiction of a man drowning in loneliness even with a sea of familiar faces surrounding him. Perhaps that will still occur, but it’s what Vinterberg volunteers as our conversation continues that makes such campaigns and even the film’s chances at an international film nomination seem almost secondary.
“My daughter was killed in a traffic accident four days into shooting this movie,” Vinterberg reveals. “She was a part of the movie. She was a friend of most of the people on the set.
“They knew her [since] she was a small child. When she died, everything stopped, obviously. And I did not know how to move on in life and particularly with this movie.”
Ida Vinterberg was just 19 when she was killed in a car accident. A month prior, she’d written her father a letter after reading the script for the film and planning to play Mikkelsen’s daughter in it. Vinterberg says she was always brutally honest with him, but in this case she shared her love for the project because she felt so seen by it.
Vinterberg recalls, “I talked to the psychiatrist, and they were like, ‘Well, if you can work, you should. And then I had a conversation with Mads and the rest of the crew, and we were like, ‘Ida would hate if we stopped. So, we will do the movie for her.’ And we somehow got through it. They carried me through, I would guess.”
Mikkelsen says his friend considered and reconsidered the options again and again before deciding to resume production. It was a “nightmare” for everyone involved but a “billion times” worse for Vinterberg and his family.
“Thomas said to me at one point, ‘Listen, I can lie in a fetal position for 24 hours, or I can lie in that fetal position for 12 hours. I choose 12. And I want to make this film for her.’ It’s because of her we’re doing the film,” Mikkelsen says. “She was supposed to play my daughter. It was inspired by her stories. And when he made that decision, none of us looked at each other and said, ‘That’s wrong.’ We just went, ‘Yeah. OK. Let’s figure out how we do it.’”
Considering “Another Round” features one of the most unexpectedly joyous endings of any film you’ll see this year, an anecdote about a filmmaker’s personal tragedy may seem like a strange disconnect. But, thanks to his close cast and crew, Vinterberg eventually found laughter and joy in making it.
“If you ever laugh at this movie,” Vinterberg says. “It’s because there’s four actors and close friends of mine who try desperately hard to make their director laugh at a time where it wasn’t really possible.”
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