Another Round (Druk) reunites dogme director Thomas Vinterberg (Festen) and his brooding star Mads Mikkelson.
Out of Itby Alexa Dalby
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
Once again in a Vinterburg film, Mikkelson plays a teacher. But unlike in the dark drama The Hunt, where he was an accused abuser, here he’s a morose teacher in a mid-life crisis (and an unironed plaid shirt).
At a 40th birthday gourmet celebration dinner, four middle-aged teacher colleagues convince themselves of a theory by a Norwegian psychiatrist that everyone is born with a blood alcohol level that is 0.05% too low. So they set out to rectify this deficit with medicinal doses of alcohol throughout the day. They treat it like a scientific experiment, measuring and recording their levels as if they’re writing a research paper.
At first the change is beneficial. Martin (Mikkelson) regains his teaching mojo, inspiring his history classes with praise of Winston Churchill’s war-winning alcohol intake. It potentially revives his relationship with his hard-working wife Trine (Maria Bonnevie).
His three friends too – sports teacher Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen), maths teacher Peter (Lars Ranthe) and psychology teacher Nikolaj (Magnus Millang) – initially gain in confidence and daring at work and at home. Though as the experiment takes hold, there’s a shocking scene where one teacher encourages a student to drink to overcome his nerves before a viva exam. However, so far so good.
But then the four get overconfident and decide to investigate what happens when they increase their blood alcohol percentage from this faux-medicinal level. Surely the higher the better? After an all-day, all-night alcohol binge their careers and marriages fall apart: finally tragedy overtakes one of them. The film is naturalistically shot and there’s plenty of quiet humour at first, but the darkness breaks through. Slender glasses of vintage wine are now a vodka bottle hidden in a paper bag. What started as a comedy becomes a tragicomedy going to some very bleak places.
Denmark’s unacknowledged drinking culture is the film’s provocative target. From the start it shows how ingrained it is – albeit presented as youthful joy and exuberance – with the dangerous, drunken graduation game that’s tradition for school students. A Swedish character says, “Everyone in this country drinks too much.”
Another Round expands on this contradiction that the country that tops the charts as the happiest in the world is reliant on alcohol intake to oil its social wheels. Martin’s improvised free-form jazz dance is a high point has won many critical plaudits. But it was a desperate, drunken dance and, by implication, sadly alcoholism is the same risk and threat in any highly developed country. Is Another Round a cautionary tale? Maybe.
Another Round premiered at the virtual Cannes Film Festival 2020, screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2020, where it won the Audience Award. It is released on demand in the UK on 27 November 2020. It will be released in cinemas on 8 February 2021 in the UK.