Sidse Babett Knudsen is perhaps one of Denmark’s most recognisable and versatile actors, especially since her iconic lead role in the BAFTA-winning television series Borgen.
From ‘the castle’ of Danish parliament to a castle in the fantasy world of Babenhausen, Sidse’s latest role in the whimsical Netflix feature ‘Ehrengard: The Art of Seducation‘ is a little different. Playing Grand Duchess Storhertuginden, in costumes designed by the Queen of Denmark, her character is childish and playful and has great on-screen chemistry with her co-star Mikkel Boe Følsgaard, who plays painter Cazotte.
Alongside Sidse and Mikkel is a new star, Alice Bier Zandén, who plays the title character Ehrengard, around who the story revolves. We interviewed Alice to hear more about her breakout role as the object of Cazotte’s seduction in this fun frolic of a film.
Here, Sidse herself tells us more about the character she plays and making this charming comedy – which is out now to stream on Netflix.
Nordic Watchlist: One of the many things I enjoyed in this film was the chemistry between you and Mikkel Boe Følsgaard, who plays Cazotte. We last saw you together in Borgen: Money Glory and Power, did it help that you worked together previously?
Sidse Babett Knusden: Oh yes, I love working with Mikkel. He is such an interesting actor, and he works so… interestingly! I am always very curious about him. He is very inspiring.
Before meeting him on Borgen, I had admired his work and was really excited, to be working with him. But slightly disappointed that so many of our scenes were on the phone or video calls. We were barely going to be in the same room!?! However the scenes we did have together were great, and we played around with both the humour, the painfully serious, -and sometimes the more abstract. At one point, in a long scene on zoom, where I am sitting in my house, – we had Mikkel sit upstairs.
When this opportunity came for Ehrengard, it was really a no-brainer – to film a comedy period drama with Mikkel, who I trusted would completely re-invent the genre, with Billie August directing, and the Queen designing the costumes. It was simply ‘yes please’!
NW: As well as Mikkel, the great cast also features Alice Bier Zandén as Ehrengard, and you’re in a small scene with Jacob Lohman, who plays your cousin?
SBK: Yes, we have a few smaller scenes together in Ehrengard. You know, I was actually in the very first thing he ever did on film. It was called ‘Se til venstre, der er en svensker’, he was straight out of drama school and played a drug addict, who sold me a dog.
Alice was just pure delight! Wild, poetic and awesome.
NW: Going back to Enhrengard, this is your first period genre film right?
SBK: Well, I thought so but then I did do a TV series called 1864 where I played Johanne Louise Heiberg. I just never thought of it as a period drama, for some reason.
NW: Talk to me about these incredible costumes you get to wear in the film.
SBK: Oh yes, the wonderful dresses!!
One of the first things I saw, were her majesty’s hand drawn costumes. Beautiful, bold colours and very volumenous. And I realised how domineering they were going to be, and how they would play a really large part in creating the character.
To me there is something almost silly about these big puffy sleeves – they are quite balloonish. The character could either go in the opposite direction, to balance out – be sombre and introvert, or go with the outfit and be a bit out of control, and I loved to play this bubbly character, even though she is a Grand Duchess.
She becomes such a childish and playful character who is hot blooded, who wants to have sex, or hear about sex, or hear about people talking about sex. Having that enjoyment was such a lovely note to play on, and I think it worked really well in relationship to Mikkel´s character, who takes himself so seriously, and who regard seduction as a form of art, so sophisticated and refined, it becomes an intellectual pursuit.
And Mikkel has this amazing talent for going from ridiculous, to sincerity, to manipulation to complete vulnerability.
NW: Those with great geographical knowledge of Denmark might spot that the scenes outdoors aren’t particulary true to Denmark but then those who know their historical locations will spot some fantastic places used in the film.
SBK: We went to so many castles, from one castle to another castle, in Denmark and Sweden, and the Czech Republic. I don’t know if you know this, but her Majesty not only designed the costumes, she is also the set-designer. Working with decoupages – this kind of collage, but with fine layers upon layers. It was her idea to use the decoupages in the settings and the backdrops, creating a visual that has a realistic layer, but then many layers in the background, as to give a non realistic, fairytale impression.
It is quite subtle. And depending on the place of shooting, we´d sometimes have to be cautious of CGI alterations, and at other times it was more “analog”.
An example is this scene, where we go to visit Ehrengard’s father and the room in which we are sitting, have paintings on the walls. But these paintings aren’t actually hanging ON the wall, – they are hanging on a construction, about a meter from the wall – which gives it a slightly surreal touch.
NW: Talking about how things are shot and set designs – we recently saw Fares Fares have his directorial debut on Netflix, both in front and behind the camera. Is this something you have ever considered?
SBK: I have been considering this for 35 years and I am still considering this. I would love to do it, and perhaps, one day I will. I hope so.