'Another Round' director Thomas Vinterberg: 'We must never lose the theatrical experience' (exclusive)

Freda Cooper
·Contributor
·10-min read

Watch: Mads Mikkelsen stars in the trailer for Another Round

This year’s BFI London Film Festival came to close with the announcement of its first Virtual Audience Awards, with Best Film going to director Thomas Vinterberg’s Another Round, starring Rogue One and Doctor Strange’s Mads Mikkelsen.

Talking exclusively to Yahoo Movies UK, Vinterberg was full of praise for the way the event had adapted to meet the demands of the current pandemic, but he resists the idea of online being the way forward for film festivals. “I would hate that,” he said.

“I salute the London Film Festival for its bravery in moving forward with this, but the sensation of being in a group of people having the same shocks or falling in love with the same characters at the same time is something we must never lose.

“I’m just looking forward to the day when this COVID thing is over and we can make proper film festivals again.”

Read more: Another Round wins big at LFF

Now on the shortlist for the Danish entry at the 2021 Oscars, Another Round follows four middle aged teachers as they try to bring back spark and spontaneity to their lives by adding a little alcohol, in an experiment that starts out successfully enough but which takes a darker turn. Already a huge hit in Denmark, it arrives in UK cinemas on 27 November.

Mads Mikkelsen in a still from Thomas Vinterberg's Another Round. (Studiocanal)
Mads Mikkelsen in a still from Thomas Vinterberg's Another Round. (Studiocanal)

Heading the cast is the director’s friend and collaborator, Mads Mikkelsen, who performs a memorably uninhibited dance in the film’s final moments. It was, says Vinterberg, all the actor’s own footwork.

“He used to be a professional dancer. There is no dance double”. The two last worked together in 2012 on the Oscar-nominated The Hunt, about the devastating effects of a lie on a solitary man.

Although his new film is frequently described as a comedy, Vinterberg sees it as being about a lot more than simply “four p***ed men” and credits his wife, actress Helene Reingaard Neumann, with the best description of its meaning.

“She tells me that the movie is about the uncontrollable, about a life filled up with people with plans. And how we’re measured. Here, you put a bottle to your lips and it opens the door to a different room, of the uncontrollable – such as falling in love, you fall, you lose control.

“Or having an idea - it’s something you get, not something you can buy on the internet. So it’s about inspiration – inspiration in life.”

Yahoo Movies UK: Congratulations on the film and on winning Best Film at the London Film Festival!

Thank you. I’m very excited about it. It’s interesting: I’ve made such a Danish movie and then people abroad dig it and, of course, you Brits dig it totally.

What makes it even more special is that it was voted for by the audience.

Director Thomas Vinterberg attends the press conference for the movie 'The Commune' at the 2016 Berlinale Film Festival in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Axel Schmidt)
Director Thomas Vinterberg attends the press conference for the movie 'The Commune' at the 2016 Berlinale Film Festival in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Axel Schmidt)

Exactly. And you love that substance in the same way that we do in Denmark.

So did you have a drink or two to celebrate?

I did. I had a drink with my wife. You know, there’s a lot to celebrate because people have been running to see it at cinemas in Denmark. They’ve had crowded houses in Denmark and then there was the opening in Paris which also went down incredibly well and now this win, which is overwhelming.

You’ve mentioned how well it’s done in Denmark. When it was originally released, it had the biggest opening weekend in the country for seven years.

And even more so, it grew from there. The Hunt was a big thing here – it was massive – and this is going to be bigger. I think that, because it’s about drinking, it interests people of all ages in all countries and at all times, and not the least the Brits.

Mads Mikkelsen in a still from Thomas Vinterberg's 2012 film The Hunt. (Zentropa)
Mads Mikkelsen in a still from Thomas Vinterberg's 2012 film The Hunt. (Zentropa)

After all, you had a very famous Prime Minister who made a really interesting decision under the influence.

I think you might mean Churchill?

In your country, for a man to decide to send 200,000 civilians or however many it was to war in small boats – my impression is that he was not sober when he made that decision. I guess drink is part of your culture – and ours too.

26th August 1946:  Former British prime minister Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill (1874 - 1965) and his wife Clementine make a toast upon their arrival in Switzerland.  (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
Churchill's prodigious drinking while in power is a key theme in Vinterberg's Another Round. (Keystone/Getty Images)

The interesting thing about the movie is that people get moved by it. It’s not like they’re provoked, they’re moved by it, so hopefully the movie is about more than just alcohol. We’ve tried to make a movie that celebrates life.

It’s remarkable that the film has done so well in Denmark, especially with the restrictions that go with COVID at the moment. It affected the London Film Festival this year as well – it was smaller and a mix of online and in cinemas. I wondered what you think the future is going to be for film festivals. Do you see online as the way forward?

I would hate that. I salute the London Film Festival for its bravery in moving forward with this, but the sensation of being in a group of people having the same shocks or falling in love with the same characters at the same time is something we must never lose.

I’m just looking forward to the day when this COVID thing is over and we can make proper film festivals again. And at that time, they’ll be extraordinarily important. Because now people are creating habits, habits of staying home and watching things on television screens, or their computer screens or tablet and we need to get them back into cinemas. And thanks to festivals like the London Film Festival, I believe that’s going to be possible and I believe it’s going to happen.

I read somewhere that it takes more than a pandemic to change the world. The world looks changed now but in a couple of years it will be back to the same and people will be back in cinemas.

The film’s getting a cinema release in the UK at the end of next month, especially as there are so many distributors who are either postponing releases or putting their films straight online.

Mads Mikkelsen in a still from Thomas Vinterberg's Another Round. (Studiocanal/Henrik Ohsten)
Mads Mikkelsen in a still from Thomas Vinterberg's Another Round. (Studiocanal/Henrik Ohsten)

Two things can happen and two things already have. The one thing that happened in Denmark is great: people run to the cinema because they want to be taken away from this life of confinement. The other thing that can happen is what happened in Paris. It opened up to great reviews and great numbers and then four days later there’s a curfew, which is really difficult for the distributors in France.

People have to be home at nine: they can’t even go to the seven o’clock show because they won’t get home in time. That’s problematic. So I understand the nervousness of the distributors and honestly I have no idea if it’s a good idea or not.

I enjoyed the film so much – I saw it at LFF – and one of the images that stuck in my mind and probably everybody else who saw the film had the same experience. And the image is of Mads dancing towards the end. Was that all his own footwork?

Of course, yes. He used to be a professional dancer. There is no dance double. It’s him entirely, I promise you.

So did he do the scene in one take?

Of course not. It took a while. We worked on the choreography for quite some time because we were both very cautious about the scene, Mads in particular, and when the day came it started raining so we shot it over two days. And all the extras had to learn to dance and sing and pretend to be drunk.

It’s not the first time you’ve worked with Mads. Why does it work so well between the two of you?

Mads Mikkelsen in 'The Hunt' (credit: Nordisk Film)
Mads Mikkelsen in 'The Hunt' (credit: Nordisk Film)

We’ve grown up in the same country, we’ve watched the same movies, we have the same heroes, we have a common understanding of what a great movie is, we’re almost neighbours, we work out together and we’ve become friends, so I guess it’s very comfortable. I can push him further. He has faith, he’s totally devoted when he works with me and that puts you in a position where you can go far. And then I admire him as an actor.

Read more: Mads Mikkelsen walked out of Fantastic Four audition

There is no such thing as “best in acting” but if there was, he would definitely be up there. He’s such a fine tuned, extraordinary instrument, so intelligent, so humorous. It’s all about trust and understanding, I guess.

You said earlier that the film isn’t just about alcohol. For me, it was essentially about a mid-life crisis for all four characters but, instead of making them the object of ridicule, you persuade us to laugh with them rather than at them.

We like them and we root for them. The battle they’re fighting is a battle that a lot of people know about. They’ve lost their curiosity, they’ve lost their sense of courage, they’ve lost their interest in life and they’ve been caught up with repetition. And a lot of people know how that feels and that’s why we root for them.

The UK poster for Another Round (Studiocanal)
The UK poster for Another Round (Studiocanal)

My wife is cleverer than I am – she’s a vicar in Denmark – she’s very smart and she tells me that the movie is about the uncontrollable, about a life filled up with people with plans. And how we’re measured. When I get up in the morning, I can see on my phone what I’m going to do today, my daughter at high school is being measured all the time and she has to lay out plans for her future all the time.

Here, you put a bottle to your lips and it opens the door to a different room, of the uncontrollable – such as falling in love, you fall, you lose control. Orr having an idea - it’s something you get, not something you can buy on the internet. So it’s about inspiration – inspiration in life. The word ‘spirit’ is embedded in the word ‘inspiration’ and I’m hoping that all this comes through so that it’s not just about four pissed men, but about how you live and how inspired you can be.

Another Round will be released in UK cinemas on 27 November.

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