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Remember dancing? What so many of us wouldn’t give for that confused jumble of joy, freedom, and insouciance. The closest approximation of that rapturous feeling, for me, came during the finale of Another Round, Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg’s tribute to alcohol and embracing the wonders of life.
The premise is a cartoonish one: in the throes of a midlife crisis, high school history teacher Martin (Mads Mikkelsen) becomes fascinated by the work of Norwegian psychologist Finn Skårderud, who controversially claimed that humans are born with a blood-alcohol level 0.05 percent too low, and thus should maintain a steady buzz in order to achieve peak performance. So, Martin and three of his colleague-pals try to put this theory to the test. They begin day-drinking, and while the results are promising at first—Martin seemingly regains his joie de vivre, and makes love to his wife for the first time in ages—things soon spiral out of control.
“That’s why the entire film took place in the school—we would be constantly reminded of the immortality right in front of us that we didn’t have anymore. It was gone. It had left us, and we were constantly being reminded of it by these kids,” explains Mikkelsen. “It’s a beautiful circle. He just wants five more minutes of being young. That’s what he’s asking for.”
As Nietzsche once said, “I would believe only in a God that knows how to dance.” And so, Martin’s journey of self-realization culminates in a wildly thrilling harborside dance that sees Mikkelsen (a trained dancer and gymnast) jumping, kicking, and flipping his way through a crowd of beer-soaked graduates, all to the tune of Scarlet Pleasure’s “What a Life.” With all due respect to the “Silly Games” sequence of Lover’s Rock and the bloody debutante ball reveal in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, it’s not only the finest dance sequence of the cinematic year, but perhaps the best movie scene of the year. If there were any justice in the world, the criminally underrated Mikkelsen would be squarely in the mix for the Best Actor Oscar.
The film took on even greater resonance for Vinterberg and the actors when, four days into filming, Vinterberg lost his teenage daughter Ida to a car accident.
“I can barely say it,” offers Mikkelsen. “What did happen when she died… We didn’t rewrite anything, change anything, or really talk about it, but as much as a tribute to life it was, it became even more so without us having to talk about it. We implicitly knew every scene was important, and it sounds banal, but we wanted to do it for her.”
Watch Mads Mikkelsen’s ‘Another Round’ Dance Exclusively Here:
Here’s how Mikkelsen pulled off that incredible dance.
YEARS OF TRAINING
“I do recall my entire childhood as one eternal climb on things. I was climbing on everything—every roof, every building, finding shortcuts from my home to my school that were as tricky as possible. I think I wanted to be Buster Keaton or Bruce Lee as a kid. I really did! I would do crazy stunts in front of driving cars. It’s always been a part of me.
“Gymnastics was the access to the dancing. Somebody needed some acrobats in the background of a musical, so there were a few of us doing that. And we also did a few steps, and the choreographer thought I had a decent amount of talent and asked if I wanted to learn the craft. At that point, I had nothing better to do in my life, so that’s how I came into that world. And I had never seen a ballet or the theater, so it was a whole new world that opened up to me when I was 19.
“I did a lot of musicals—West Side Story, La Cage aux Folles, Chicago—and then I was a contemporary dancer in a company that was kind of a mix of Martha Graham technique and Horton technique. Every morning we did ballet as well, because that provides such a strong base. That’s what I did as a young man. I never had a plan for that, never a dream, it just happened out of coincidence and I stayed. It was a job, and I gradually got better, and better, and better. Another reason I stayed was there were not a lot of boys but a lot of girls, so you might as well just hang around for a while.”
GETTING HIS GROOVE BACK
“Every director wants you to dance on cobblestones for some reason, so that was a tricky thing. There was a bench and a lot of kids, so we left some room open for improvisation, but we made a base of steps with the choreographer, Olivia [Anselmo]. She was fantastic. It turns out that dance has evolved insanely since I was dancing, so I had no idea what she was doing, but I tried my best to pick it up, and we changed it a little to make it my own. The idea was that it should feel loose. We didn’t want it to be an aesthetic dance; it was more about the internal journey that this man was on, because he’d just lost someone he loved and gained someone he loved within the last hour. So, we did rehearse a few times, and I stretched a lot before we did it, because dance muscles are not the same as tennis muscles. We might have done it twenty or thirty times—which is a lot for a man my age on cobblestones. But once we were there, it felt right.
“The first beat was interesting, because Lars [Ranthe] was the other guy saying, show me those steps, remember those steps from the good ol’ days! And then he had to be drunk and not good at dancing, and the reality is, he’s a really good dancer. He could have pulled it off really well. So, he was a little grumpy that day that he had to come across as a shitty dancer. He’s a Danish champion in breakdancing! The very first time we shot it, I drank the beer, I threw it up in the air, and I kicked it—and I scissor-kicked it so hard that it went up thirty yards in the air, and straight down, and the camera couldn’t see it. So, it didn’t have any effect!”
“WHAT A LIFE”
“It’s fuck what everybody says, I just want to feel young for five minutes. That’s exactly what the song says. And it didn’t hit me until I saw the film a second time where I thought, ‘That’s crazy how well-fitted that song is to the theme of this man.’ The song choice came from Thomas’ wife. It had been popular a few years ago in Denmark, so I did a few steps to it, and it felt like the perfect beat. And then, ironically enough, it turned out that the lead singer [Scarlet Pleasure’s Emil Goll] was one of my daughter’s friends when she was a teenager, and I had driven him back home to his mom twice after he had been soaking drunk at a party. It was funny, that this youth story came back to haunt us as older men.
“After the first beat he sits down on the bench and I pick up my phone again, look at the last text message from my wife, and then he contemplates what a crazy ride he’s had. He just lost his friend, now he’s got a chance to get back with his wife, and then the song takes over—and he becomes the song: fuck it all, let me be young for five more minutes. We wanted the death and the prosperity of getting back to your wife to be in the same look—that internal journey. He looks out at the water because his friend was lost at sea, and water also signals a rebirth.”
“Thomas uses a handheld camera, and we wanted to do long takes—not be like a music video, where it’s cut, cut, cut, because that looks cheap and like you could do anything there. We wanted it to be alive. Putting my leg around and catching it in an awkward way around the other leg is very much my move. I’ve done that in funny situations before, but I don’t recall if I’ve ever done it as a performance. It’s fun to do it because even other dancers don’t know what it’s about, because it’s not a typical dance move. And Thomas wanted that cartwheel. He kept saying, ‘Do a cartwheel!’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, but that’s not dancing Thomas, that’s gymnastics.’ The tough part was to land on the slick cobblestone and not slip.
“And it was very fun! There were a lot of youngsters there! I would say there were about 80 young people. A couple of them didn’t get the memo to shoot the champagne up in the air, so they did it smack into my face—just before I had to run out and do a big leap into the water. I was completely blinded! I think they got too caught up in the moment, and you know what, I can’t blame them! We did the leap into the water two or three times. We wanted people to not be able to tell whether or not he was flying. But it was cold!
“It’s a reminder of what life used to be a year ago, and we’re just praying that it’s coming back soon.”
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