Doing a Lot with a Little

ACTOR PROFILE. The prototype of an all-round character actor with an international career, David Dencik in recent years has worked with stars like Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Oldman. Find out more about Dencik and his films, including 2015's "Men & Chicken."

Always unpredictable, the 40-year-old Danish actor David Dencik has grown by leaps and bounds over the last decade, playing over 60 different roles in films and on television. Never failing to capture us with his inscrutable but eloquent dark gaze, Dencik can be understated and subtle where others feel they have to raise their voice.

Here is a selection of films featuring the Danish actor, a master of doing a lot with a little:

A Soap. Photo: Erik Molberg Hansen

David Dencik Selected Films

Tordenskiold (2015)
Henrik Ruben Genz

Regression (2015)
Alejandro Amenábar

Kidnapping Mr. Heineken (2015)
Daniel Alfredson

Men & Chicken (2015)
Anders Thomas Jensen

Serena (2014)
Susanne Bier

The Absent One (2014)
Mikkel Nørgaard

Speed Walking (2014)
Niels Arden Oplev

The Homesman (2014)
Tommy Lee Jones

Hotel (2013)
Lisa Langseth

A Royal Affair (2012)

Nikolaj Arcel

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

Tomas Alfredson

Brotherhood (2009)

Nicolo Donato

The Early Years – Erik Nietzsche Part 1 (2007)

Jacob Thuesen

Outside Love (2007)

Daniel Espinosa

A Soap (2006)

Pernille Fischer Christensen

A Soap (2006)

Dencik got his breakthrough in a leading role as a transsexual, Veronica, in Pernille Fischer Christensen’s subtle, two-character chamber piece, which won both the Silver Bear and the award for best debut feature at the Berlin Film Festival in 2006. Bit by bit, the reserved Veronica builds up a relationship to her equally fragile upstairs neighbour, an attractive but emotionally confused single woman played by Trine Dyrholm. With deep, brown-eyed melancholy, Dencik makes Veronica a believably wistful character, maintaining a paradoxical dignity and poetic aura in the most humiliating situations. The film, which was put together during a long period of improvisations by Dencik and Dyrholm, earned them both a Robert award.

Outside Love. Photo: Christian Geisnæs

Outside Love (2007)

Dencik followed up his success in "A Soap" with another leading role, this time as a young dreamer struggling to break free from his Orthodox Jewish community. After the death of his wife, he roams around rudderlessly with his five-year-old son in tow, hoping to save enough money for a trip to New York. Challenged by a bright Pakistani woman, beautifully played by Louise Hart, Dencik turns many of the scenes in her modest convenience store into minor miracles of liveliness and humour. The film was written by Dencik's brother, author and director Daniel Dencik ("Gold Coast"), and directed by Chilean-Swedish Daniel Espinosa ("Easy Money").

Brotherhood. Photo: Clinton Gaughran

Brotherhood (2009)

Jimmy, a violent neo-Nazi, could hardly be a less attractive character. But Dencik endows him with a humanity that makes it credible that he would fall in love with a more gifted member, Lars (Thure Lindhardt), of their neo-Nazi, all-male gang, as a new world of tenderness and desire opens up for the closeted Jimmy. Dencik with great refinement plays a rough man in this empathic drama by Nicolo Donato.

A Royal Affair. Photo: Jirí Hanzl

A Royal Affair (2012)

Dencik can be chillingly convincing as diabolically calculating characters. In Nikolaj Arcel's period love story, he plays Ove Høegh-Guldberg, a statesman at the end of the 18th century who pulls the strings so masterfully that the film’s hero, Struensee (Mads Mikkelsen), the king’s progressive physician, is eventually brought down and beheaded. Struensee, the short-lived, de-facto head of state, stands for enlightenment and rationalism, while Høegh-Guldberg represents reactionary nationalism in collusion with the church, and Dencik gives him an air of smouldering fanaticism.

The Absent One. Photo: Christian Geisnæs

The Absent One (2014) 

Dencik has played villains before, in Tommy Lee Jones' western "The Homesman" and Susanne Bier's melodrama "Serena." But he likely never unleashed evil more potently or relentlessly than in this second adaptation from a Jussi Adler-Olsen crime novel produced by Zentropa. As a tycoon scrambling with increasing desperation to cover up the murderous sins of his youth, Dencik is ruthless, smart as a whip and utterly without scruples. Directed by Mikkel Nørgaard, the film was the biggest box-office attraction at Danish cinemas in 2014.

Men and Chicken. Photo: Rolf Konow

Men & Chicken (2015)   

Rarely one to represent normality, Dencik makes an exception as Gabriel, the most reasonable of five half brothers in Anders Thomas Jensen's grotesque dramedy, this spring's biggest Danish box-office hit. A thoughtful academic trying to track down his biological father, Gabriel ends up in the company of his four violent half-brothers at a picturesquely ramshackle, secluded sanatorium. There, he discovers a secret that makes him feel a growing sense of solidarity with his comical loser brothers. Starting out cool, Dencik's performance exquisitely builds to final warm engagement.

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Men & Chicken selected for Vanguard at Toronto 10-20 September