Larrain said it struck a chord because it told an unusual story.
"Dictators are not usually ousted through democratic elections and this is a profoundly human story, which is resolved through things that have to do more with beauty than with horror," he said.
"A Royal Affair" is a tale of love and intrigue centered on the triangle of an ailing Danish king, his queen and the monarch's forward-thinking physician, played by former Bond villain Mads Mikkelsen.
Director Arcel said the nomination made Thursday "one of the most exciting days in my life and career."
"Kon-Tiki" recreates explorer Thor Heyerdahl's audacious 1947 journey across the Pacific Ocean on a balsa-wood raft. The 101-day trip was designed to prove that South Americans could have settled Polynesia in pre-Columbus times.
The $16 million budget makes it one of the most expensive Norwegian movies ever made.
Roenning said being nominated for an Oscar was "totally unreal."
"My agent rang, and I howled and woke up the whole hotel," Roenning told Norwegian broadcaster NRK by phone from Los Angeles.
Directed by Montreal-born Nguyen, "War Witch" — known as "Rebelle" in French — follows a 12-year-old girl abducted by a rebel army. It was filmed in Congo with a partly non-professional cast but set amid an unspecified conflict.
Its teenage star, Rachel Mwanza — who formerly lived on the streets of Kinshasa — won acting prizes at the Berlin and Tribeca film festivals.
Nguyen said that the Oscar nomination for "War Witch" was "a great privilege and an honor" — and a rare piece of good news for war-ravaged Congo.
"When (Mwanza) came back from Berlin when she won the Silver Bear, people were cheering for her on the streets," he said. "Things are going so badly in Congo and they need this. This really makes a difference."
Nguyen said he hadn't yet been able to get through to Congo to tell Mwanza the good news. But, he vowed: "We're going to see that she gets to the Oscars."
He conceded that Haneke was probably the front-runner to take the foreign-language prize when winners of the 85th Oscars are announced in Hollywood on Feb. 24.
"We're clearly the underdog in all of this. Haneke has such a legacy," Nguyen said. Still, he added, "underdogs are appreciated in the United States. "
Associated Press Writers Thomas Adamson in Paris, Luis Henao in Santiago, Chile, Jan Olsen in Copenhagen, Matti Huuhtanen in Helsinki, Charlie Gans in New York and Charmaine Noronha and Rob Gillies in Toronto contributed to this report.
Jill Lawless can be reached at http://Twitter.com/JillLawless