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.
Martin (a typically excellent Mads Mikkelsen) is a history teacher, apathetically drifting away from his students, his wife Anika (Maria Bonnevie) and the charismatic, ambitious charmer he once was. One night out, his psych teacher friend Nikolaj (Magnus Millang) suggests an experiment: along with PE teacher Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen) and music instructor Peter (Lars Ranthe – making up an ensemble that jointly won Best Actor at the San Sebastian Film Festival), they test out the theory, loosely based on an idea propounded by psychotherapist Finn Skårderud, that humans are born with too low a blood-alcohol percentage. If they day-drink controlled amounts, will it make them happier, better adjusted, more capable?
Initially it does, as observed by the fractional lightening and brightening of Sturla Brandth Grøvlen’s reliably superb, faintly sardonic, coolly Scandinavian photography. Martin reconnects with his class and with Anika; Tommy coaches his kids’ football team to unprecedented success. But soon darker notes sound as they up their ‘dosage’, and the secrets kept from spouses and school authorities alike take their toll. Also, it’s difficult to know when you’ve crossed the line from sociological study into self-justifying alcoholism when you’re drunk all the time.
But this is not some schematic tale of giddy hubris brought low. Co-written by Vinterberg and Tobias Lindholm, the film acquires more nuance as the foursome respond to the experiment in divergent ways, mining gently heartbroken themes of male fragility and insecurity while also depicting the central friendships with a rueful warmth that is only rarely applied to men, especially at this age. It builds to a finale in which Martin finally puts his early years of jazz ballet to unexpectedly joyous use, and suggests that drinking in later life is a bit like dancing at a funeral: an act of messy but life-affirming bravery in the face of beckoning nihilism.
Some viewers may long for a more outright condemnatory or celebratory narrative, but if Another Round opens with Kierkegaard, ultimately it ends up espousing the beautiful ambivalence of a different philosopher – perhaps the greatest prophet of modern midlife masculine malaise, Homer Simpson: ‘Here’s to alcohol, the cause of – and solution to – all life’s problems.’ Please consume irresponsibly.
Jessica Kiang, Sight & Sound, bfi.org.uk, 30 September 2020
‘I never drink before breakfast.’
The quote is from Churchill, who helped to defeat the Germans and win World War II, while under the excessive and constant influence of alcohol.
Other great thinkers, artists and writers, such as Tchaikovsky and Hemmingway have found courage and inspiration that way. After the first mouthfuls of alcohol, we all know the feeling of the conversation growing, the room getting bigger and the problems getting smaller.
With this movie, we want to examine and salute alcohol’s ability to set people free. The film is inspired by the Norwegian psychologist Finn Skårderud’s theories that man is born with a 0.5 blood alcohol level shortfall.
We want to create a tribute to alcohol but it goes without saying we also want to paint a nuanced picture. Embedded in our examination of the essence of alcohol lies an acknowledgement that people die from – and are destroyed by – excessive drinking. An existence with alcohol generates life, but it also kills.
In this story, we meet four good men a little late in their lives. We meet them in a world we know: a boring and mediocre one, which sees them locked in monotony and entrenched in patterns and habits, trapping them in middle ground. At the same time, death is moving closer. They have passed the half-way point in their expected lifetime. The freedom of youth, infatuations and weightlessness have gradually become distant memories. They rediscover all of it and much more by taking part in an experiment entailing a systematic intake of alcohol. Initially, in connection with their jobs as high school teachers.
The movie is imagined to be rooted in the real world – in completely naked, blunt and at times improvised intimacy – like in A War by Tobias Lindholm, Festen (The Celebration) by the undersigned and Husbands by Cassavetes. The moments play out, letting the camera observe and not dictate.
The movie assumes a humoristic and – in some eyes – scandalous approach to a serious topic. Another Round is intended to be a multi-faceted story that at the same time provokes and entertains, makes us think, cry and laugh within the length of the movie. And hopefully leaves food for thought and debate for an audience who lives in a world which, to an increasing degree, is defined by puritanical rhetoric outwardly, but has a rather high alcohol intake even from a relatively young age.
Another Round is imagined as a tribute to life. As a reclaiming of the irrational wisdom that casts off all anxious common sense and looks down into the very delight of lust for life… although often with deadly consequences.
ANOTHER ROUND (DRUK)
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
©: Zentropa Entertainments3 ApS, Zentropa Sweden AB, Topkapi Films BV, Zentrope Netherlands BV
Production Company: Zentropa Entertainments
In co-production with: Film i Väst, Zentropa Sweden, Topkapi Films, Zentrope Netherlands
With support from: Det Danske Filminstitut, TV 2 Danmark, Eurimages Conseil de l’Europe, Netherlands Film Fund, Svenska Filminstitutet, Netherlands Film Production Incentive
With the support of: MEDIA Programme of the European Union
Presented by: Zentropa Entertainments
Producers: Kasper Dissing, Sisse Graum Jørgensen
Line Producer: Kristina Kornum
Unit Manager: Lars Iversen
Location Manager: Mikkel Schiller
Script Supervisor: Ditte Sun
Script: Thomas Vinterberg, Tobias Lindholm
Director of Photography: Sturla Brandth Grøvlen
Stills Photographers: Henrik Ohsten, Rolf Konøw
Special Effects Co-ordinator: Hummer Højmark
Editors: Anne Østerud, Janus Billeskov-Jansen
Production Designer: Sabine Hviid
Conceptualizing Costume Designer: Ellen Lens
Costume Designer On-set: Manon Rasmussen
Key Make-up Designer: Marly van de Wardt
Choreography: Olivia Anselmo
Sound Design: Jan Schermer, Hans Møller
Stunt Co-ordinator: Jacob Sebastian Malm Carlsen
Mads Mikkelsen (Martin)
Thomas Bo Larsen (Tommy)
Magnus Millang (Nikolaj)
Lars Ranthe (Peter)
Maria Bonnevie (Anika)
Helene Reingaard Neumann (Amalie)
Susse Wold (rector)
Magnus Sjorup (Jonas)
Silas Cornelius Van (Kasper)
Albert Rudbeck Lindhardt (Sebastian)
A STUDIOCANAL release
Intro + pre-recorded Q&A with Thomas Vinterberg (Sun 11 Jul 15:00 only)
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Programme notes and credits compiled by the BFI Documentation Unit
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