It’s easy to imagine just how personal this film became to director Thomas Vinterberg. His daughter Ida had told him stories about the drinking games that Danish kids were up to these days and she was pushing him to make a movie out of a play he had written. She was set to play the leading character’s daughter in Another Round, but then a car crash ended her life four days into the shooting of the film.
Obviously, Vinterberg was devastated, but decided to go ahead anyway and dedicate the film to Ida’s memory. When he walked up to the podium at this year’s Oscars, the director also made an emotional tribute to his daughter. She influenced the film in more ways than one.
Breaks down at a dinner
Copenhagen teacher Martin (Mads Mikkelsen) is more unhappy than he’s dared to admit to his wife Anika (Maria Bonnevie). At a dinner together with his friends and colleagues, he breaks down and begins to talk about a sense of alienation in his marriage and his lack of motivation when it comes to work. This hasn’t passed unnoticed among students and parents who are not too happy about Martin as a teacher. The dinner turns into a drunken night out where they talk about a psychiatrist who’s come up with an interesting theory, stating that everyone’s blood alcohol level is a little too low and should be raised to 0.05. That’s the perfect state of mind, making you more creative and relaxed. Everybody in the group dismisses the idea… until Martin actually gives it a try at work.
Some merit to the theory
Norwegian psychiatrist Finn Skårderud reportedly once came up with the theory behind this film and there is some merit to it. Admittedly, always being a little drunk is not a sustainable strategy, even if I’ve heard enough stories from older colleagues about alcohol culture in newsrooms to wonder if that’s not what they were attempting decades ago. For obvious reasons, there’s no room for alcohol in workplaces anymore, but there’s also no denying that a drink or two might have a very positive effect at times, leading to a creative flow. When Vinterberg’s daughter died in that accident, he started thinking about what he actually wanted to say with Another Round and decided that the film shouldn’t just be a cautionary tale about drinking, but also a toast to life. Vinterberg and the four actors who played the teachers (Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Lars Ranthe, Magnus Millang) did a little experimenting of their own, learning the effects of alcohol and what it means to drink just enough to loosen up. That part of the film is wonderfully staged and makes you think about what consequences it would have in your own life.
The fact that the story eventually takes a darker path is expected and natural, but it happens a little too quickly in the film and the four men who initially take their experiment seriously begin to drink more as part of the experiment, inexplicably not realizing that a higher blood alcohol level will just lead to drunkenness. Also, the relationship between Martin and Anika is poorly defined; so is the reason why they suddenly get back together near the end in spite of what’s happened before.
Still, it’s hard not to like this movie. Mikkelsen is terrific and the underlying message is simple yet nicely balanced: alcohol is a source of tremendous grief and joy. That’s a very potent cocktail.
Another Round 2020-Denmark-The Netherlands-Sweden. 117 min. Color. Produced by Kasper Dissing, Sisse Graum Jørgensen. Directed by Thomas Vinterberg. Screenplay: Thomas Vinterberg, Tobias Lindholm. Cast: Mads Mikkelsen (Martin), Thomas Bo Larsen (Tommy), Lars Ranthe (Peter), Magnus Millang (Nikolaj), Maria Bonnevie (Anika), Susse Wold, Helene Reingaard Neumann.
Trivia: Original title: Druk.
Oscar: Best International Feature. BAFTA: Best Film Not in the English Language. European Film Awards: Best Film, Director, Actor (Mikkelsen), Screenwriter.
Last word: “I felt that there had been so many moralistic tales about alcohol, and I felt a great growing sense of chastity of our country. Some people call it political correctness, but I would call it chastity and fearfulness and an over-reasonable behavior. And I wanted to point at the fact that here’s a country of people pretending to be reasonable but drinking like madmen at the same time. And I wanted to look into that. And I also very quickly realized why people are drinking and how people can elevate from drinking. Normally, an idea is something more specific than it was in this case. This was just thoughts about alcohol, really, and probably a reaction against mediocrity and boredom of this country.” (Vinterberg, Interview Magazine)