Oscar-winning Danish comedy starring Mads Mikkelsen as one of four middle-aged teachers who decide to drink on a daily basis to improve their lives. Thought-provoking drama about friendship, freedom - and alcohol!
The latest film from The Hunt and Far from the Madding Crowd director Thomas Vinterberg is remarkable on several levels. For one thing, Another Round cements Mads Mikkelsen’s place as one of our greatest living actors. For another, it puts all other contemporary midlife-crisis movies to shame.
Usually, the genre is broadly split between comedy (Grown-Ups, Wild Hogs) and drama (Sideways, The Weather Man). But while both lanes sometimes dig into painfully relatable territory, midlife-crisis movies often end fairly flatly, with infantile men (and it’s usually men) finally learning the importance and virtue of growing up. Another Round, which focuses on four schoolteachers, resists any easy answers or endings, but still reaches a startlingly cathartic conclusion.
Mikkelsen stars as Martin, a high-school history teacher who leads a dull, staid life. He sleepwalks through his lessons and his home life with two teenage sons and a wife (Maria Bonnevie) he barely speaks to, as she works night shifts. Then a night out with three longtime friends and fellow teachers reveals a way to put a little excitement back into his life. As the men drink, they discuss the work of Norwegian psychologist Finn Skårderund, who wrote that all humans have deficient blood alcohol content, and should try to maintain a level of 0.5%. The next day, Martin takes a flask and a breathalyzer to work, and finds that he’s actually a more engaging teacher when he’s drunk. When his friends find out what he’s done, they decide to join in on the experiment, beginning a journal to document their findings. Interstitial cards of text help the audience keep track of their progress, keeping tabs on each character’s BAC.
Gym teacher Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen), chorus teacher Peter (Lars Ranthe), and psychology teacher Nikolaj (Magnus Millang) all begin sneaking alcohol into the school and teaching under the influence. Initially, they all feel the same boost in success and confidence that Martin does, but as they up their daily doses, the plan begins to unravel. The alcohol isn’t the root of the problem, however, so much as it’s a way of highlighting the problems they had before the experiment began.
That distinction is what makes the men’s descent into alcoholism so difficult to watch. They’re putting a temporary band-aid on the larger wounds present in their lives, and making those wounds worse by drinking. Alcohol seems to be the only thing capable of dulling the sharp edges of their long-held frustrations, but it’s a short-term solution. Vinterberg miraculously keeps the proceedings from becoming unbearably dark through small moments that make it clear the film isn’t an overall indictment of alcohol, such as a scene in which the men egg Martin on to perform some moves from his jazz-ballet dancer past by attempting to dance themselves.
Larsen, Ranthe, and Millang are all terrific — acting drunk in a convincing way is no small feat, especially as they go through varying degrees of intoxication — but the film is ultimately Mikkelsen’s show. The actor’s sharp features have largely relegated him to villainous roles in mainstream American movies and television, from Le Chiffre in Casino Royale to Kaecilius in Doctor Strange to Hannibal Lecter in Hannibal. Off-camera, his apparent goofiness and lack of pretension — just check the Twitter account “Mads Mikkelsen Doing Things” — have made him even more popular. It all makes it easy to forget that he’s capable of the kind of subtle, realistic performance that made his previous collaboration with Vinterberg, The Hunt, so devastating.
The cartoonish premise of Another Round remains within the realm of possibility almost solely thanks to the many close-ups on Mikkelsen’s features. His face can communicate myriad emotions with just the subtlest shifts, and Vinterberg wisely takes advantage of his leading man’s capabilities. The way Martin struggles with his frustrations with the outside world as well as with himself are most clearly broadcast on his face, and in his body language.
On the surface, Another Round isn’t a particularly timely or relevant film. The problems these four white men face aren’t exactly ground-breaking; midlife crises are common fodder for film. But Vinterberg’s ending offers an unlikely sense of catharsis, even though it isn’t truly happy, turning the film into something fresh and affecting. On top of all that, the film provides the opportunity to watch Mikkelsen give perhaps his best performance yet.
Karen Han, Polygon, December 18th 2020.
In this year’s awards season, it was trebles all round for this quirky, flippant tragicomedy of booze, which snagged an Oscar and Bafta for best foreign language film. Its Danish title is “Druk”, a term which is maybe best translated by adding the letter N. Thomas Vinterberg’s film, reuniting him with actor Mads Mikkelsen (who starred in his drama The Hunt in 2012) is based on a pseudoscientific theory which put me in mind of Humphrey Bogart’s bleary dictum about the rest of the world being three drinks behind. People spend a lot of time in this film getting very, very drunk and maybe in the wacky traditions of Denmark’s Zentropa Studios, the actors were indeed required to get genuinely hammered before the cry of “Action!”
The smoulderingly impassive Mikkelsen plays Martin, a high-school history teacher at an institution where the teens imbibe their drinking ethic early on, with an OTT drinking game they play on graduating, and learn to associate binge drinking with youthful health and happiness. Martin hangs out a bit with three other morose middle-aged teachers: Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen), Peter (Lars Ranthe) and Nikolaj (Magnus Millang). They are all pretty underpar these days, but Martin seems especially to have lost his mojo, mumbling and stumbling his way through lessons in ways that alarm the students.
Then the guys have an idea: they have come across a theory from the Norwegian psychiatrist Finn Skarderud that the blood-alcohol content of all human beings is always too low, and if measures could be taken to up the booze quotient in everyone’s bloodstream, this would be an entirely acceptable way of treating depression. (Skarderud is a genuine figure, but I’m not sure if he has ever in real life actually said this or if the four fictional ale-heads have misunderstood a more anodyne comment.)
So they set out to do just this, furtively tippling during the day with clear spirits clandestinely decanted into mineral water bottles – in the sad and sleazy way of alcoholics everywhere. Martin refines their approach in line with something he has heard about Ernest Hemingway: that if you cease your drinking by 8:00pm every day, this regulates the work/life/booze balance. (He appears unfazed by how Hemingway ended his days.) Soon Martin has got his zing back, cheerfully telling his history class about his and their new hero, Winston Churchill, who wrote numberless books and saved the world from fascism while (or because of) being completely wrecked.
It really is a strange film: it could be that Vinterberg wanted something like Marco Ferreri’s La Grande Bouffe from 1973 about four guys who set out to eat themselves to death, and there are moments, especially when the four drunk guys are running around like kids, when it reminded me of John Cassavetes’s Husbands from 1970. Inevitably, the drinking can’t be maintained on this faux-medicinal level as they naively assume. Health is wrecked, careers are trashed, relationships are ruined and marital beds are urinated in.
But Vinterberg seems also to want to upend our liberal pieties about excessive drinking being bad. There’s a scene in which one teacher encourages a student to drink before a viva examination and … well …. it clearly doesn’t do him any harm and may even have crucially steadied his nerves.
I wondered throughout this film if Vinterberg intended his film (which he co-wrote with Tobias Lindholm) to be a really cheeky piece of provocation, like Lars Von Trier’s The Idiots, but didn’t quite have the nerve, and so settled on something which really doesn’t know quite what to say about the place about drinking in our society: other than it is here to stay – and that being drunk looks much, much worse on middle-aged people than it does on young people. But come to think of it, it looks pretty bad on the young as well. The performances are persuasive and watchable, especially Mikkelsen, the guys’ alpha-leader, who ruinously makes being drunk look pretty acceptable until it is too late.
Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian, 30th June 2021.
Total Number of Responses: 47
Film Score (0-5): 4.43
110 members and guests attended the screen of Another Round.
You delivered 47 responses which is a 43% response rate giving a score of 4.43. Thank you all for taking the time to give us your views.
All the collated responses are shown below.
“I found this a puzzling film as I was viewing it. Very likeable on the surface and graced with Mads Mikkelsen's monumental features across which the emotions travel like weather systems but ...what is it about? My conclusion is that it's not really about the booze at all (annoyingly: as a man who likes a drink or several I'm always interested in other people's thoughts). I assume it's all a metaphor for risk taking; reinvigorating a stale life by exiting the comfort zone, though beware the resultant revelations and new found freedoms. I don't find the ending inconclusive or vague, I think the message is just that, and pleasingly realistic: like the booze, it's fine if you can handle it, if you can't it can be disastrous”.
"We enjoyed this film which had a strong performance from Mads Mikkelson. The mens’ friendship was endearing but the ambiguous ending, although exhilarating, was unsettling. I would rate it 4 out of 5
“A really engaging and captivating film but not one to watch on day one of alcohol-free November! Brought back fond memories of my grandfather's theory that he was born one drink under par”.
“Hooked from the start. Thoroughly enjoyed everything about this film and was so engrossed that I could feel the hangover”.
“Funny, clever, heart-warming. Mads excellent as always”.
“Very enjoyable. What started out as a comedy turned into a poignant portrait of relationships, chiefly between men of a certain age. It's probably best not to dwell on the appropriateness of some of the conversations with the young people in their care, though! I breathed a sigh of relief when 3 out of 4 called time on the experiment, and was moved by Tommy's tragedy. Some very clever camerawork got across the inebriation effect well”.
“Some may view this film as simplistic, which to a certain extent is true. Some may view it as distasteful with responsible people drinking and over-drinking and offering alcohol to a teenager. All of these are just considerations. From my point of view, it highlighted how easy and euphoric it can be to partake of alcohol..... until it gets you! Then it all turns sour and the fall out affects everyone around you. So, one could view it either way: a distasteful film about men behaving badly or a lesson to be learned where, in the end, at least two men paid the price”.
“Loved the music. Sad to see the way in which alcohol destroys people's lives”.
“I think this comes into the 'interesting' category. Nicely shot, debatable postulate”
“If only you could "bottle" the positive effects of 0.5% BAC without having to drink the alcohol!!”
“Best of the season so far. High energy and humorous scenes at the start and end book ended a film about a subject which could so easily have descended into a predictable story about the abuse of alcohol.... But it didn't and managed to steer through a difficult subject with both humour and sadness. Very strong acting performances throughout. An excellent choice, thanks”.
“Poignant and realistic”. “Profound and thought provoking. So many emotions in one face. Wonderful”. “Pulls no punches. Hard hitting and thoughtful”.
“MM is the best. So much emotion and what a strange plot…loved it”.
“Excellent. Thought provoking amusing and refreshing”.
“Very entertaining. Best film so far this year”. “Brilliant”.
“What fun. Loved it”. “Felt pissed watching it!”
“Very good. Emotional, interesting and worrying. Very well acted”.
“Excellent, funny and sad and great music”.
“Amazing script and filming. Human nature flaws and glory. I loved it”.
“Fabulous – love Mads – great film”.
“Excellent idea for a film and superb actors. Cinematography was great also”.
“Lively and well shot – but too depressing”.
“Rather uneven, slow start- then a bit superficial – then deeper and more challenging”.
“To drink or not to drink! Interesting film about life”.
“Enjoyable/uplifting and also poignant/sad”.
“What an experiment! Great fun – its amazing any of them survived”.
“Thought provoking and good to watch”.
“Why called a comedy?”
“Rather disjointed and contrived”.