Martin (Mads Mikkelsen) is a schoolteacher of history, who by this middle-aged stage of his life is merely coasting with the minimum of fuss, except his lack of engagement is causing fuss anyway. His pupils detest his classes, and stage a revolt by inviting their parents to confront him, asking him how his rambling lectures are in any way helpful to gaining the high grades needed for university entry, and he cannot really answer that. So when he is out with his three friends, also schoolmasters at the same establishment, and the drink begins to flow, he has a better time than he has had in quite a while. Which gives them an idea for an experiment...
Director Thomas Vinterberg, co-writing with Tobias Lindholm, was originally going to show what sheer Hell alcohol could wreak on your life, as inspired by the drinking horror stories of his teenage daughter Ida, to whom this film is dedicated. But he had a change of heart when something awful happened: Ida was killed in an accident, and as he grieved he realised he wanted a story more life-affirming than "get drunk, see your life go to shit" as it was originally. Except, of course, that is the message of the piece, yet also the message is "get drunk, have a fantastic time with your friends", generating an ambiguity that left you with understandably mixed feelings by the end.
The whole cast was terrific, but special mention should be made for Mikkelsen who initially portrayed Denmark's most boring man, but once he and his pals hear about a Norwegian theory that human beings are born lacking a certain level of alcohol in the blood, and that difference could be all that it takes to reduce them to a cowed state of utter lack of adventure, they decide to run their own trials to find out if that is true. We have already seen the older students getting hammered on a day out, and noted that there are drinking rituals in Denmark seen as a rite of passage, but should our lead characters have left all that behind them instead of embracing it all over again?
This was really your basic midlife crisis yarn seen in any number of screen dramas, but while they might not have been saying anything hugely revelatory, there was a fascination in watching the quartet and how far they would go before it all went horribly wrong, because you started watching this wondering which of them was going to die. Would it go that grim? It was true to say there was a mood of impending doom here, but only inasmuch as these men were not seventeen years old anymore and there was no way they were going to recover from drinking sessions quickly, never mind a try at keeping the blood alcohol at 0.5% to make up for their inadequacies. It was quite funny to see them gradually succumb to the drug’s effects, but that was tempered with concern, as the film walked an unsteady tightrope.
One of Martin's colleagues sees his choirmaster duties become a whole lot more fun when he's lightly sozzled, and another bonds with the last to be picked for the football team and sees him improve with his support, but you are not overly shocked when the experiment takes a turn for the worst and they are no longer pleasantly squiffy, more absolutely hammered and noticeably so (check out Mikkelsen's encounter with a doorframe for a top wince moment). Martin's wife Anika (Maria Bonnevie) has been growing apart from him for years, and the impression is she only sticks around for the kids, so the drinking brings out both spouses' anger and derails the marriage completely. Even if you get your kicks watching drunkards making fools of themselves in online clips, you are going to start having misgivings watching the four here grow deeper into their addiction, and eventually it isn't funny anymore, and you ponder if it ever was. And yet, there is the final scene, an expression of sheer joy and throwing back misery in life's face: was it uplifting or upsetting? It may be both in an absorbing, troubling triumph.
[Oscar-Winner ANOTHER ROUND comes to DVD, BR and Digital on 27th September 2021.]
Danish writer and director who graduated from short films to be one of the founders of the controversial Dogme 95 movement with his caustic family drama Festen. The next project of his to be seen internationally was the bizarre sci-fi romance It's All About Love. He followed this with gun drama Dear Wendy, another troubled family drama Submarino and provocative false accusation yarn The Hunt. The Commune was a semi-autobiographical tale of his upbringing. He won an Oscar for his grimly amusing drinking story Another Round. Vinterberg also directed the sleepy video for Blur's song "No Distance Left To Run".