Thoughts on Another Round (Druk 2020)

Thomas Vinterberg’s Another Round (Druk 2020), the Danish film starring Mads Mikkelsen about four middle-aged high school teachers who try to enliven things by maintaining a steady blood alcohol content of 0.5% throughout the workday (“no drinking after 8 pm”), is perfectly fine. (It was written by Vinterbertg and Tobias Lindholm.) Mikkelsen is hilarious as a sleepwalking history teacher-cum-history teacher trying to keep himself upright and steady; the conceit of having the camera’s level of movement reflect the character’s level of intoxication is pretty nifty (cinematography by Sturla Brandth Grøvlen); and though we all know that things will take a turn for the worse, the film admirably refrains from moral condemnation, or celebration of alcohol either, for that matter. This does, however, result in some ambiguity in tone. Apparently this is because the story, based on Vinterberg’s play, was originally a celebration of alcohol, but then Vinterberg’s teenage daughter, Ida, died in a car crash, and so he wanted to make the film more life-affirming. It is indeed affirming of life, at least on a moment by moment basis. The film is dedicated to her.

The classroom scenes were filmed in Ida’s actual classroom, with some of her actual classmates. Can you imagine what that must feel like, to take part in making a film about drinking in memory of your dead classmate in the same room where you used to spend day after day together? No wonder they all seemed so present and alert, even when they’re supposed to be slacking off—alertly slacking off, as it were.

I’m not writing a full review, because Jessica Kiang has already written what I wanted to say. Her opening paragraph is essentially what was running through my mind as I left the theater:

Breezy and boozy, joyful and melancholic, occasionally wild and often wise, Thomas Vinterberg’s Another Round is a heady cocktail swiftly downed, with a late kick like a particularly euphoric mule. A drinking movie that’s neither a finger-wagging cautionary tale nor a Will Ferrell-esque manchild comedy, that presumes to caution about using alcohol as a crutch while also daring to suggest that sometimes it’s a very useful crutch indeed – Another Round is, of course, when you get right down to it, not really about drinking at all. Instead, as loosely signalled by the opening Kierkegaard quote about youth, love and dreams, it’s about male friendship, midlife crisis and the cruelty of a modern condition by which we spend our first couple of sentient decades figuring out who we want to be, and the rest of our lives not living up to that vision.

Of course, it is to a great extent about drinking, about how alcohol can make our lives not better or worse necessarily, but more more. In this, I disagree with Charles Bramesco’s review, which sees the film as reminding us that the buzz can’t last, and won’t. But I still hope you’ll read it, because it’s the best-written review I’ve read in a while. There’s something about getting wasted that brings out the best in him.

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