Danish actor arrives at Shanghai International Film Festival to launch directorial debut

By Qi Xijia Source:Global Times Published: 2016/6/28 18:48:00

After two glamorous decades as one of the Europe's most acclaimed actors, Ulrich Thomsen of Denmark is trying his hand at directing. His debut directorial work, In Embryo, had its world debut during the Shanghai International Film Festival.

In Embryo tells a twisted love story between Sean, a drug dealer (Ross McCall) and Lilly (Kristen Hager), a heroin addict. It is considered an "art film," with plenty of close-ups, long takes without dialogue and heavy symbolism, leaving the audience with an enduring afterthought about substance and domestic abuse.

Following his first acting gig in 1994's Nightwatch, directed by Ole Bornedal, the great Dane has played a number of acclaimed roles, including in Thomas Vinterberg's The Biggest Heroes (1996), Susanne Bier's Sekten (1997) and Anders Thomas Jensen's Flickering Lights (2000).

His global breakthrough came in 1998 as an abused son in Thomas Vinterberg's incest drama The Celebration. Within China, the Danish actor might be most identified with his character Sasha Davidov in the James Bond film The World Is Not Enough (1999).

The Global Times had the honor of sitting down with Thomsen during an exclusive press screening of In Embryo held by the Royal Danish Consulate General in Shanghai. Our chat was as follows.

GT: What are the themes you wish to explore in In Embryo?

Ulrich Thomsen: The story deals with love. The characters are very tormented and abused from childhood. But there are many themes. It also deals with how you solve things with violence. Today there are a lot of wars going on. Knowing from history, my opinion is that wars don't solve anything. It is also important for me to have that political view on top of the love story. Even though it is a love story to me there is a certain amount of politics.

GT: What has been most challenging about changing your role from actor to director?

Ulrich Thomsen: As an actor all things are already prepared for you. You just step in. You get in front of the camera and say your lines and you get out. As a director there are so many details you have to be aware of. It's like a conductor. You have a whole orchestra in front of you. It is challenging. You are always under a time constraint. As a small production we didn't have money for a second assistant. I pulled a lot of favors. Everybody was working for very little money. The crew was very supportive. There was generosity from everybody involved.

GT: What has the reaction to your film been like so far?

Ulrich Thomsen: It surprises people a little. It moves them and it makes them think. It is a piece of art, like an exhibition. It generates feelings and thoughts and afterthoughts. I want the film to be challenging. Movies have to have a bit of pushing the audience a little bit in terms of engaging. You need to be a little bit insecure and learn from that experience. To quote Lars von Trier, a movie should be a little pebble in your shoe. There should be something annoying about it, something that makes you uncomfortable.

GT: Do you think you bring a Danish touch into the film? Or did you want to make it more universal?

Ulrich Thomsen: I am Danish by tradition. I think we bring this personality wherever we go. I didn't deliberately try to shy away from that. I don't think this story works on a social commentary level. I hope I bring my own personality to the film.

GT: How does it feel to be nominated for the Shanghai International Film Festival?

Ulrich Thomsen: Knowing how many films are being made around the world and how many are submitted to all the different festivals, I am very pleased to have been chosen. It started out as my baby and now has grown into something that can stand on its own legs.

GT: What's your next project?

Ulrich Thomsen: I am writing the script for my next movie. We hope that we can shoot it early next year. It's a different kind of movie. It's more of a black comedy and political satire about racism but done in a funny kind of way. I learned a lot from my first production and I want to do better next time with more preparations and a slightly bigger crew. Shanghai, I will be back!

Acclaimed Danish actor Ulrich Thomsen speaks to the Global Times in Shanghai.


Screening of In Embryo during the Shanghai International Film Festival 


A poster for In Embryo

Photos: Qi Xijia/GT and mtime.com

Newspaper headline: Embryonic

Posted in: Metro Shanghai

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