Nikolaj Arcel was honoured Wednesday with the Dreyer Award, named after Danish cinema's most distinguished classic figure, Carl Theodor Dreyer. The award celebrates outstanding artistic achievement among, primarily, young filmmakers.
Hollywood in Danish
Arcel received the award for introducing a touch of Hollywood in Danish cinema:
Since 1992 the Dreyer Award has been assigned to "young filmmakers or film professionals who have distinguished themselves within Danish cinema". The award includes a cash prize and is presented annually by the Carl Theodor Dreyer Foundation, whose members count Lene Halvor Petersen (Head of DFI Archive and Cinematheque), Peter Schepelern (Associate Professor, Copenhagen University) and lawyer Allan Falk.
Recipients previous years
Susanne Bier, Birger Larsen, Janus Billeskov-Jansen, Niels Vørsel, Lars von Trier, Bo hr. Hansen, Jonas Elmer, Thomas Vinterberg & Chr. Braad Thomsen, Lotte Svendsen & Nicolas Winding Refn, Lone Scherfig & Per Fly, Ole Chr. Madsen & Åke Sandgreen, Annette K. Olesen & Jesper W. Nielsen, Christoffer Boe, Max Kestner, Dagur Kári, Niels Arden Oplev, Morten Hartz Kaplers, Henrik Ruben Genz, Nils Malmros, Tobias Lindholm & Michael Noer, and Mads Brügger.
"With energy and narrative zest Nikolaj Arcel has thrown himself into genre films," associate professor Peter Schepelern said on behalf of the jury. "While there is a longstanding tradition for Danish films to be either humanistic realism or jovial populism, Arcel is a Professionalist who handles dramaturgy and style with great skill, but who is also unmistakably aiming at an audience, and a large one at that."
Praise was directed, not least, to the director's sure hand in turning a chapter of Danish history into a poignant drama of politics and intrigue.
"The historical drama is an expensive and also difficult genre," Schepelern said. "But with 'A Royal Affair' Arcel managed to create a successful balance between maintaining a truthful historical portrait and a consideration for a contemporary audience."
"The film is neither a tour through a museum nor rough-handed modernism. It is a story about the struggle between reactionary, religious-ecclesiastical forces and an enlightened, secular social order."
The Dreyer Award was presented on 30 January at the DFI Cinematheque in Copenhagen.
About A Royal Affair and Nikolaj Arcel
"A Royal Affair" features Mads Mikkelsen as Struensee, the personal physician of King Christian, who becomes Denmark's de facto ruler for a few remarkable years around 1770. At the same time, Struensee starts an affair with the young Queen Caroline Mathilde. Alicia Vikander is the queen, while Mikkel Boe Følsgaard plays the deranged king, a performance which earned him a Silver Bear in Berlin. A second Silver Bear went to scripters Arcel and Rasmus Heisterberg.
Nikolaj Arcel, 40, made his debut in 2004 with the first-ever Danish political thriller "King's Game". He then breathed new life into Danish children and teen films in 2007 with the effect-laden "Island of Lost Souls". While "A Royal Affair" was in preproduction, Arcel put out a witty generational comedy lampooning the film industry, "Truth About Men" (2010).
Arcel always writes his own scripts (with Rasmus Heisterberg). He has continued working as a screenwriter alongside his directing career, penning "Catch that Girl" (2002; US remake, 2004) "Fighter" (2007), the massive mystery blockbuster "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" (2009) and "The Keeper of Lost Causes" (2013).
Arcel graduated in film direction from the National Film School of Denmark in 2001.