Mads Mikkelsen Source
mobile version
Mads Mikkelsen back after Cannes win with French role

Source: Global Post
Date: May 24, 2013

Danish star Mads Mikkelsen fires crossbows, delivers a baby colt and speaks fluent French in the Renaissance drama “Michael Kohlhaas”, which joined the competition Friday at Cannes.

Mikkelsen, who picked up the festival’s top actor prize last year for his turn as a man falsely accused of child abuse in “The Hunt”, plays a 16th-century horse dealer who rises up against a feudal lord.

Director Arnaud des Pallieres moves the German literature classic by Heinrich von Kleist to his native France, giving Mikkelsen his first French starring role.

Kleist based his 1811 novella on a true story of a merchant who rampages through rural Germany after an aristocrat wrongs him.

In the film, the province’s young lord confiscates two of Kohlhaas’s prized black steeds.

He seeks legal recourse in the nascent justice system but when his case is rejected, he forms a ragtag militia to rise up against his rulers.

Kohlhaas scores an unlikely series of battlefield victories.

But when he has the opportunity to overthrow the established order, he forgoes his chance as his demand for a review of his lawsuit is granted.

Mikkelsen, who played the Bond villain Le Chiffre in “Casino Royale” and is now appearing as the cannibal psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter on US television, said learning French for the part was not the biggest challenge.

“Obviously I had to learn to ride (a horse) and I had to learn to speak French to a degree, that was a lot of preparation there… but that’s push-ups. The real work is with the director and the fellow actors,” he told reporters after a well-received press screening.

Mikkelsen, 47, said he and the director agreed not to do countless takes and get bogged down in perfecting the language.

“Working in French is obviously very, very difficult when you’re Danish. And we made a pact that I would work as much as I could — constantly, nonstop,” he said.

“And when we were shooting the scenes, we would not talk about it any more, that was it. That was the deal, and we kept it. We tried to make a space where I could do what I’m hopefully best at, be present in the moment and not think too much about the words.”

Des Pallieres said the story of a successful merchant and loving father who becomes a radical militant resonated strongly today.

“I think this is the most beautiful historical tale you could tell: a man who could seize power but chooses not to out of a sense of honesty and moral rigour,” he said.

“It’s as modern and contemporary as historical — it applies both to Kleist’s time and our own.”

Mikkelsen said he was attracted to Kohlhaas as a radical character whose motivations are open to wide interpretation.

“Whether we see him as a hero, a villain or a revolutionary — it’s up to each individual,” he said.

“Michael Kohlhaas” is among 20 films in the running for the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or top prize on Sunday.