Directed and co-written by Thomas Vinterberg
“With this movie, we want to examine and salute alcohol’s ability to set people free” – Thomas Vinterberg
Another Round won the award for Best International Feature Film at the recent Oscars, as well as the Bafta for best film “not in the English language”. I took myself off to the flicks a few weeks ago to watch it, in my first cinema visit since early 2020 (when I probably watched last year’s big Oscar-winning film, Parasite, which I reviewed here).
The film is dedicated to Vinterberg’s daughter Ida, who was to have appeared in the movie, but who tragically died in a car crash in the early stages of production. Vinterberg was somehow able to complete the film, many scenes of which are set in his daughter’s real life school.
The premise is straightforward enough. Mads Mikkelsen plays Martin, a middle-aged teacher whose marriage is barely functional, a man who seems utterly devoid of energy, and whose lessons draw complaints from students and parents alike.
At a lacklustre dinner to celebrate the 40th birthday of his colleague Nikolaj (played by Magnus Millang), Martin opens up about the disappointments in his life, but after shedding a tear or two, he throws off his Nordic melancholy with the help of a few drinks, and has fun getting hammered with his friends (who also include PE teacher Tommy, played by Thomas Bo Larsen, and music teacher Peter, played by Lars Ranthe).
The friends subsequently instigate an experiment, based on a theory by obscure, real-life Norwegian psychiatrist Finn Skarderud, which posits that humans are born with a deficit in their blood alcohol levels of 0.05%. They agree to drink sufficient alcohol to rectify this deficit during their working day (knocking off the sauce by 8pm), and to record the results.
The results of the experiment fulfil a predictable arc, recording early successes in reinvigorating the curriculum, breathing life into the friends’ lessons and restoring some much-needed intimacy and spontaneity to Martin’s marriage and to his relationship with his children. However, inspired by their newly positive (and permanently a bit pissed) outlook on life, the four friends decide to take the experiment to the next level, and go all out, with results that veer between tragedy, anarchy and farce. The film takes on a serious topic from an often humorous and always irreverent angle, though it doesn’t turn away from the human cost of the men’s absurdist project.
Mads Mikkelsen is a revelation in this film, booting Claes Bang out of the top spot on my Scandi crush chart, and performing an unexpected, joyous and jaw-dropping dance routine that helped bring the film from straightforwardly good to superlative.