'This film kept me from insanity': Thomas Vinterberg on tragedy behind triumphant Oscar-nominated sensation 'Another Round'

Kevin Polowy
·Senior Correspondent, Yahoo Entertainment
·5 min read
Mads Mikkelsen in 'Another Round' (Samuel Goldwyn)
Mads Mikkelsen in 'Another Round' (Photo: Samuel Goldwyn)

Another RoundThomas Vinterberg’s darkly comedic drama about a coterie of middle-aged Copenhagen men who experiment with functional day drinking to mixed results — was widely expected to earn an Oscar nomination for Best International Film, where the global hit has emerged a the prohibitive favorite. But in one of the biggest surprises of Oscar Nomination Monday, the Danish filmmaker also found himself in contention for Best Director alongside frontrunner Chloé Zhao (Nomadland) and industry stalwarts David Fincher (Mank) and Aaron Sorkin (The Trial of the Chicago 7).

“I fell off my chair,” Vinterberg recounts of hearing his name called by the Academy in a new interview with Yahoo Entertainment. “Well, I fell back into my chair. I didn’t see that one coming. I’m sitting in a line of fantastic directors, all my heroes.” (And yes, there’s video proof of Vinterberg’s stunned reaction.)

Vinterberg is no spring chicken. The 51-year-old Dane launched the arthouse phenomenon Dogme 95 with Lars von Trier in 1995, and has been drawing international acclaim since his 1998 breakout, The Celebration. Another Round, though, marks a career pinnacle. It’s a film whose sensibilities feel uniquely Scandinavian, especially in its casual depiction of alcohol abuse, yet has been celebrated around the world — viewers debating the treatment of boozing (does this film make you want to drink less... or more?) and gushing over its deliriously sublime climax. “There’s No Better Move Ending in 2020 Than Mads Mikkelsen Dancing in Another Round,” proclaimed a Vulture headline.

Yet, Another Round is a film informed by real-life tragedy.

Co-written by Tobias Lindholm, the film is based on a play Vinterberg had written while working in Vienna, and also took inspiration from stories his daughter Ida shared with him about drinking culture among young people in Denmark. Ida also encouraged him to adapt the ideas into a film, and gave her father notes on the script. “I was looking at world history, basically, and, realized how many huge accomplishments have been done by people who were drunk,” the filmmaker says, noting figures like Ernest Hemingway, Winston Churchill and Ulysses S. Grant. “We wanted to celebrate that to begin with, and then it grew from there. It did come with a moral obligation of such towards telling the whole story. We know that families are being destroyed and people have been killed by alcohol as well.”

Ida Maria Vinterberg, who had previously co-starred in her father’s 2016 film The Commune, was set to act in Another Round, too. She’d play the daughter of Martin (Mikkelsen), a depressed and emotionally distant high school history teacher whose life takes a turn for the better when he makes pact with his friends (Thomas Bo Larsen, Magnus Millang and Lars Ranthe) to maintain a constant blood-alcohol level that a prominent psychiatrist theorizes makes one maximally creative, relaxed and efficient.

On May 4, 2019, four days into filming and before she left for the Copenhagen set, Ida was killed in a car crash in Belgium.

“She was a very honest, brilliant, very intelligent young woman, and she loved this project unconditionally, and felt seen by it,” Vinterberg says. After Lindholm briefly stepped in as director following Ida’s death, Vinterberg returned, determined to complete the project, as difficult as that would prove.

“We decided to carry on with this movie for her as a monument for her,” he says. Some of the film’s subject material and tone shifted in the wake of such an unthinkable family tragedy. He set out to make a film that was more life-affirming, which “became a circumstance, something we had to do.”

Danish director Thomas Vinterberg with daughters Nana (L) and Ida (2ndR) and actress Helene Reingaard Neumann (R) poses on the red carpet ahead of the screeing of the film
Thomas Vinterberg with daughters Nana (left) and Ida (second from right) and actress Helene Reingaard Neumann on the red carpet ahead of the screeing of the film 'The Commune' at the 66th Berlinale Film Festival in Berlin in 2016. (Photo: Tobias Schwarz/AFP via Getty Images)

“This film probably kept me from insanity,” Vinterberg confesses now. “We were all very [emotionally] naked. There was a tremendous amount of love on the set, and care and grief at the same time. And you can probably feel that on the screen. And if you laugh occasionally, it’s probably because the actors were fighting so hard to make me laugh. So everything in this movie is made in the context of my daughter suddenly not being here. And so with that, she’s inseparable from this movie.”

Another Round, which premiered at September’s Toronto International Film Festival, is dedicated to Ida. The acclaim was instantaneous.

Vinterberg has been touched by the love from fellow directors like Guillermo del Toro, Paolo Sorrentino and James Gray, which culminated with his unexpected Oscar nomination from their branch in the Academy. He was moved to tears by an ecstatic reaction from an audience at the Rome Festival Festival: “We were so relieved, that they liked it, but of course also because of the stuff that has happened to us, the situation that my family is in.”

There are both happy and tragic endings for the characters experimenting with drinking in Another Round. So it makes sense Vinterberg will not tell you how it should make you feel about your own alcohol intake.

“I couldn't come up with the answer to that,” he says. “Who am I to tell people how much to drink? And I know to some extent that’s dissatisfying, this kind of open-end, it's not what we’re used to seeing in movies anymore. But in a cinema with 500 seats, I want people to see 500 different movies. That's what happens. They see what they see and they take from it what they want to take. I want you to draw your own conclusions.”

Related: Vinterberg's 'dancing and hugging' movie 'Another Round'

Another Round is now playing in select theaters and streaming on Hulu.

Read more on Yahoo Entertainment: