They say that life imitates art and vice versa, last night I ended up thinking of the same in a strange manner. I took a nostalgic trip back in time, to a period when I was in my final year of college and discovering the joys of alcohol. It was the first time in my life that I had a lot of freedom. With my family having shifted to another city, I chose to avoid the college hostel, preferring instead to living with 5 other friends in a compact independent house. I was specifically reminded of a month where all of us ended up experimenting with alcohol consumption, just for fun of course, going on to learn and unlearn a few things in the process. If you are wondering, why am I ranting about an old story, don’t worry as that is not what this post is all about. But its hard not to watch Thomas Vinterberg’s latest film Another Round (Danish title-Druk) and not reflect upon one’s own tryst with booze.
Martin (Mads Mikkelsen), Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen), Peter (Lars Ranthe) and Nikolaj (Magnus Millang) are all high school teachers in Copenhagen. They are very close friends, who are all facing midlife crisis of sorts, seeing their professional and personal lives getting monotonous and without any spark. The group decides to try an experiment, following the theory of Norwegian psychiatrist, Finn Skarderud who claimed that having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.05 makes one more confident and relaxed. Martin who’s probably the most affected among the four of them, decides to drink during work time and is surprised with the outcome. His friends decide to join suit, all of them considering this to be worth an experiment with academic merit. They decide their own set of rules, begin drinking at work and soon find themselves enjoying their work and their personal lives.
Buoyed by the initial outcome of their experiment, the group decides to up the game, increasing their consumption levels. The results continue to be remarkable; Martin starts to connect wonderfully with his students, his wife and sons also start seeing him in a new light. The other 3 guys also have similar experiences, resulting in the group attempting binge drinking to study the effect on themselves. What happens from thereon in the lives of the 4 teachers and the people around them is what the rest of the film is all about. This is a film that might appear to be a bit dark but it’s not really a tale that tells you that all is lost when you are down and out. It tells you to stay positive and that every cloud could have a silver lining.
Vinterberg and his co-writer Tobias Lindholm, make sure that their writing is effective enough to make us witness the story unfold from close quarters. We do get invested into the characters, hence it’s no surprise if we find ourselves seemingly in the midst of all the action. Vinterberg’s execution style is in good sync with the writing, thus we get to celebrate with Martin and his friends during their happy occasions, similarly we also feel their pain when they face tough situations. It is almost as if we are silent participants in their experiment. As seen in some of Vinterberg’s previous films, including The Hunt/Jagten (2012) which again featured the fantastic Mads Mikkelsen in the lead, there is nothing loud, even an emotional outburst is subtle and dignified in the manner it is handled subsequently by the concerned character.
The film also offers us a glance into the socio-cultural dynamics of Denmark, without championing it. We get more than a glimpse of how the educational system functions at the school level, how the youngsters keep themselves busy, managing to bring in a strange sense of balance between their academic pursuits and other activities. The film is all about the celebration of life in a way, going on to surprise us a few times. It’s also heartening to note that while it would have been fairly normal for any filmmaker to make the proceedings remain on the heavier side for a major part of the run time, Vinterberg chooses to do so otherwise, hence making the film even more appealing.
The film benefits from some solid performances, Mads Mikkelsen as Martin is a delight to watch, appearing convincing irrespective of whether he’s playing the dull and boring history teacher, or the rejuvenated chap who’s suddenly able to enjoy his life and appeal to others as well. Mads is well supported by the other actors playing his friends, all of them ensuring that their camaraderie appears genuine and relatable. The film ends virtually on a note that can stun you into silence, the buildup to the ending being remarkable and being worthy of a grand closure. This is a film that has been having a glorious festival run, making it a huge favourite in this award season and rightly so. With several awards already tucked under its belt and with many more expected (it’s also received 2 Academy Award nominations for Best Director and Best International Film), be rest assured that we are going to be hearing a lot more about this film in the coming days.
Would I want to have another experiment in my life? Perhaps not and that’s not because of the fact that I am afraid of the consequences. As long as you are in charge and not allowing something else to take charge over you, it’s pretty alright. But will I be having something to talk about whenever I get to meet my friends again, I think that’s a definite yes.
Note-Originally slated for a theatrical release in India, it’s unfortunate that the current pandemic situation has become a roadblock for the same. However, beginning tomorrow, April 23rd (2021), the film will be available for viewing for the Indian audience, via BMS Stream, the recently launched streaming venture by Book My Show.