Another Round, 2020
Directed by Thomas Vinterberg.
Starring Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Lars Ranthe and Magnus Millang.
Four friends, all high school teachers, test a theory that they will improve their lives by maintaining a constant level of alcohol in their blood.
‘It’s not just a film about drinking. Our ambition was to make a film about living.’
This is how Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg has described his latest work, Another Round; a study of the pitfalls of drinking as seen through the eyes of four middle-aged friends looking for a new lease of life. Mads Mikkelsen plays Martin, a stuck-in-a-rut history teacher whose lack of zest is obvious to all who know him (his wife, sons, friends, and even his students). At a birthday dinner, the subject of Finn Skårderud comes up; a Norwegian philosopher who believed people were born with a low blood alcohol level, and therefore needed to drink little and often in order to properly relax into a more fulfilling life.
Martin, along with friends and fellow teachers Nikolaj, Tommy and Peter, decide to try it out. They begin drinking throughout the day (agreeing not to continue past 8pm or on weekends), aiming to maintain a buzz without getting properly drunk, all the while documenting the results as if for an academic study of some kind, leading to what can only be described as mixed results. The men keep telling each other that it’s ‘for research’, but they know as well as anybody watching that it’s a lie. The truth is that they’re bored; they’ve lost any enthusiasm for life and are looking for a little excitement, hoping to re-invent themselves along the way.
Martin’s marriage is on the rocks. His wife openly admits to him that he isn’t the man she fell in love with, and she seems to work nights just to get out of the house. His job isn’t going too well, either. His students are worried about getting into university and have zero faith in his ability to help them get there. Almost as soon as he starts drinking, his teaching begins to enliven them and their grades start improving. He even takes his family away for a camping trip and finds time for his wife. It all seems to be going okay, but as is always the case with addiction, it won’t surprise anyone that he and his friends soon get a little carried away.
The brilliance of Another Round is in its unashamedly politically incorrect approach. While the negative effects of drinking are clearly at the forefront here, Vinterberg doesn’t hide the enormous buzz that attracts people to it in the first place. Rather, he fully embraces it, even going as far as to have Martin justify excessive drinking to his class, and Peter encourage a student to have a shot before his upcoming exam to calm his nerves. Vinterberg’s findings are notably inconclusive, and by the closing moments, he doesn’t offer any sort of view, because that was never the point. He’s just interested in observing how people change. It’s as much of a study to him as it is for his characters, and he has no agenda of his own. That approach might rub some viewers up the wrong way, but that’s exactly what it’s designed to do. It’s the sort of daring filmmaking that invokes a lively discussion and leaves a lasting impression.
Mads Mikkelsen is, of course, at the very heart of this film. He’s truly one of the world’s finest actors and his previous collaboration with Vinterberg, The Hunt, is among his best performances, but he’s never been better than he is here. At first subdued and soon effortlessly bursting with life, Mikkelsen truly understands his character and sells every emotion he experiences. You really feel as if Martin goes on a journey, and his already famous ‘dance’ scene is not only a career highlight, but one of the year’s very best endings; clearly inconclusive yet somewhat cathartic.
Another Round is as fascinating and darkly comedic look at midlife crises, depression and addiction, brilliantly paced and developed, with fully-realised characters and terrific central performances. Unafraid to be bold and unwilling to make a statement, it is both thoughtful and unique, at once funny and tragic, and an insightful look at how heavily entrenched binge-drinking is in our culture, and how we as a society justify it to ourselves. It’s wonderful.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★★★★★ / Movie: ★★★