Oscar balloting begins March 5 and Academy members need to see “Another Round” before voting. The film merits attention for Thomas Vinterberg’s script and directing — and for Mads Mikkelsen’s performance, which is remarkable for many reasons.
Early on, his character, Martin, asks his wife, “Have I become boring?” In fact, he has. Mikkelsen is the rare actor who can be interesting while playing a bore.
Martin and three teacher buddies in Denmark decide to test an assertion by Norwegian psychiatrist Finn Skarderud that humans function better by slightly raising their blood alcohol level. Each of the four friends experiences unexpected results.
Mikkelsen tells Variety that he had a great opportunity to show Martin’s evolution.
“The arc of most characters is fairly small. But because of this experiment, you see a variety of sides to Martin, and get a glimpse of what he might have been 25 years ago. It is a challenge to find facets, but it’s something actors all dream of, showing the spectrum of the character — what he used to be and what he might be again.”
One of Mikkelsen’s other acting feats is depicting varying degrees of drunkenness as the experiment escalates.
Over the years, Oscar has embraced multiple depictions of alcohol, including winners Ray Milland (“The Lost Weekend”), Lee Marvin (“Cat Ballou”), Elizabeth Taylor (“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”), Maggie Smith (“California Suite”) and Jeff Bridges (“Crazy Heart”) as well as nominees such as Dudley Moore (“Arthur”), Peter O’Toole (“My Favorite Year”) and Denzel Washington (“Flight”).
All did expert work, so it would seem impossible to add anything new, but Mikkelsen and his co-stars do it. They depict numerous levels of drunkenness, all distinct — which is especially tricky when shooting out of sequence.
“On any day,” he says, “we might have a semi-drunk scene, then very drunk, and right after that, a sober scene driving in a car. We went up and down on the dial.”
Before filming, “We did a boot camp, not about how to be drunk, but to be precise about the levels. For example, .05 can be very different from .06. We taped scenes on different levels, and it didn’t feel like a big difference when we were doing it. But the next day, watching ourselves, it was obvious things were happening, with a little less control of your hands, maybe, and slurring certain vowels. That gave us tools, a little up and down.”
Aside from his specific acting challenges, the film was difficult for everyone. “There was a shadow cast on the film from the first week,” says Mikkelsen. “Thomas lost his daughter in a traffic accident. That was the biggest obstacle for everyone: How are we going to approach this and why? She was to play my daughter and she contributed ideas about the film. Thomas decided he wanted to make this for her, and we all said ‘Let’s go.’ It was insanely crazy tough for us, so I can only imagine what it was like for Thomas, but the film kind of transformed. The film became much more about embracing life than was first on paper.”
Mikkelsen, born in Denmark, is a one-man United Nations. He has acted in Danish, English, French, German, Spanish and Swedish onscreen, plus a little Russian.
Aside from following notable predecessors in onscreen drinkers, Mikkelsen could continue another Oscar tradition: great performances in a language other than English. That list includes three dozen performers — small, considering 92 years of awards — with the stellar lineup of Marcello Mastroianni, Max von Sydow and Antonio Banderas, among others.
Will he join them? The lead-actor race this year is crowded, but Mikkelsen is too good to overlook.