Love, it should be noted, not just between Struensee and Caroline Mathilde, but between the two men.
“We wanted to have that on film,” Mikkelsen says of the bromance that drives much of “A Royal Affair.” “It’s very, very important to understand that this was not just one political scam. A lot of people had affairs because of political alliances, but that was not the case here. It was just that they really, really liked each other. The king losing me was almost worse than losing his wife.”
Coincidentally, the Danish schoolteacher Mikkelsen plays in “The Hunt” also has an abiding faith in rationality and humanism — which may or may not be justified, as the Kafkaesque story unfolds. “Maybe they both trusted a little too much!” Mikkelsen says, laughing.
The fact that Mikkelsen is starring in “The Hunt,” written and directed by Thomas Vinterberg, has special resonance in Denmark’s movie culture: Vinterberg, along with Lars von Trier and other filmmakers, was one of the founding members of the Dogme 95 film movement, which professed allegiance to an artifice-free visual aesthetic and rough, low-tech production methods. At the time, Mikkelsen was casting his lot with Refn, who was not part of the von Trier clique.
“I think we needed to have those little clubs to identify ourselves and figure out what we wanted,” Mikkelsen says now. “To be strong groups that hated everybody else — I think we needed that to define ourselves. Then gradually, when we matured a little more, we’d go, ‘I kinda like these guys,’ you know. ‘Let’s start working together and unite our ideas.’ ”
Working with Arcel and Vinterberg also marks a homecoming of sorts for Mikkelsen, who lives in Copenhagen but has been working mostly outside Denmark for the past several years.
“It was just through chance, I guess, that they came to my hands at the same time,” Mikkelsen says. “All of a sudden there were these two beautiful scripts.”
But now, it’s time to find Hannibal. “He’s very, very difficult to define,” Mikkelsen says of the character brought most memorably to life by Anthony Hopkins in “The Silence of the Lambs.” “For him . . . the beauty is right there between life and death. And he sees the world as a big opportunity. Obviously, we can agree that the results of his handiwork is not healthy for anyone, maybe for him. But he’s not a classical psychopath. He’s got enormous empathy, but he’s just not necessarily blessed with being emotional about things. He’s that cross between angel and devil that is real.”
In other words, the perfect fit for an actor as comfortable wearing an eye patch as a character’s heart on his sleeve.
A Royal Affair
137 minutes, at area theaters Friday, is rated R for sexual content and some violent images.