Mads Mikkelsen is one of the most reliable actors. You can bet your bottom dollar on it that when his name is attached to a project, you’ll get quality. So it’s obvious he’d collaborate again with the director of their Oscar-nominated film ‘The Hunt‘, Thomas Vinterberg. This time he plays a teacher who’s seen better days. Barely motivated to go to work and his marriage that’s slowly dissolving, he and three other friends – also teachers – decide to conduct an “experiment” to keep their blood alcohol level at 0.05% at all times.
Mikkelsen plays Martin, married with children, but the routine and boredom of his job and marriage have him slowly fading away. When his students and their parents call for an intervention, to get him to actually teach them something so they’re ready to graduate and go to college, he realizes something drastically needs to change. In the meantime, his fellow colleague and friend Nikolaj (Magnus Millang – ‘Heavy Load‘) is bored in his job and wishes his toddlers would finally stop wetting their bed. At a birthday celebration, Nikolaj tells them about an obscure philosopher who argued humans aren’t born with enough alcohol in their blood. They all decide right there and then to experiment with the idea of drinking constantly throughout the day to maintain the proper blood-alcohol level. At first they smuggle bottles of vodka into school to get buzzed before class, in the school toilets. When the alcohol clearly seems to take the edge off for Martin, he starts to engage more with his students and finally finds the courage to surprise his wife, as if the husband she once married was reborn. Once the gang starts to challenge themselves and pushes their research an inch too far, feelings that were bottled up for years start to resurface and all four of them have to decide for themselves if they want to keep chuckwalking down this destructive path, possibly risking a drinking problem, or finally face the truth.
The opening of ‘Another Round‘ (original Danish title, ‘Druk‘) paints a portrait of Danish drinking culture, with students participating in a “lake race”. A game in which these teenagers run around a lake in teams, stopping at a series of benches to drink one bottle each. Vomiting costs them precious time, but the winner gets the bottle deposit money. Binge drinking isn’t a new phenomenon, but to see it somewhat glorified on film is something new for me. The school has been getting a series of complaints about drunk students, disturbing the city, and are considering a zero tolerance (you can buy wine and beers in Denmark from the age of 16).
Vinterberg seems to feel more comfortable in using modern music, which fits this story and the shenanigans these four grown men get themselves into. Cinematographer Sturla Brandth Grovlen finds a way to capture their drunk spirit by often using a blurry lens and jumping from steadycam to handheld camerawork. Effective and playful is the on-screen text to showcase the progress their keeping track of in their notes, and an archive montage of drunk politicians from all corners of the world. The film perfectly balances humour with tragic drama, and that is mostly thanks to the flawless collaboration between Vinterberg and his co-writer Tobias Lindholm, who described their film as “a tribute to life”.
The dialogue is well written and each one of the characters’ stories feels real. These guys could be your neighbours or relatives. The honest portrayal of each one of them is necessary to make the excessive drinking seem less cool than it looks on screen, although they don’t always succeed in that, which is worrying. These men have ordinary lives, so of course shit happens. This helps ground the story, instead of leaning too much to one particular genre. Moderation is mandatory in all facets of life. Mikkelsen, Larsen, Ranthe and Millang each deliver stellar performances. Especially the ensemble work in one particular supermarket-scene is a comedic masterpiece.
Another Round isn’t groundbreaking in their obvious message on addiction and the side effects of intoxication, but many nuanced topics that cover family and friendship amidst the dangers of pleasure in any shape or form, are as raw as they come. An all round beautifully crafted film that impresses with its level of quality. I must admit, drunken Mads doing jazz ballet routine tops 2020 for me. Time to wine down.
Another Round is screening at TIFF20:
– Satuday, September 19 at 12pm @ TIFF Bell Lightbox
Tickets are available HERE
TIFF20 Review – ‘Another Round’
(Original title ‘Druk’ – Denmark) Reviewed online (as part of Toronto International Film Festival), September 18, 2020. Rating: R. Running time: 115 min.
PRODUCTION: A Nordisk Film Distribution release of a Zentropa Entertainments, Topkapi Films production. Producers: Sisse Graum Jørgensen, Kasper Dissing.
CREW: Director: Thomas Vinterberg. Screenplay: Tobias Lindholm, Thomas Vinterberg. Editing: Anne Østerud, Janus Billeskov Jansen. Cinematography: Sturla Brandth Grøvlen.
CAST: Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Magnus Millang, Lars Ranthe, Maria Bonnevie.