Dir. Thomas Vinterberg | Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Marie Bonnevie, Thomas Bo Larsen | Denmark. 2020. 115′
Vinterberg’s latest is a freewheeling comedy that relies on false bonhomie to reveal the hollow desperation at its core. Set in semi-rural Denmark, Another Round is a wise and trenchant look at a community sleep-walking into mediocrity, in a haze of alcohol.
Like Festen and The Hunt before it, there is a deeper message to the gently imploding farce that took the Best International Feature award in the 2021 Oscars. The focus is a close-knit circle of friends who have known each other for quite some time. United by their common ground as teachers in the local school gives them time on their hands to discuss the meaning of life and the film encourages us to do so too with its elegant pacing and intelligent script. Punctuated by the gentle rigour of patriotic anthems that lend a rousing gravitas to this boozy study of social mores, the musical interludes hark back to the country’s heroic past that paved the way for the peace and security they now enjoy in this outwardly affluent locale with its glorious scenery and stylish design.
Martin (Mads Mikkelsen) teaches history and drinks too much. In fact they all do. Relying on alcohol to get them through their banal everyday existence. He is joined by Bo Larsen’s sports teacher, wealthy psychology prof Nikolaj (Magnus Millang), and the music-master Peter (Lars Ranthe), the only one without kids.
Married to Marie Bonnevie’s Trine, Martin has lost his mojo and so drinking provides a comfort blanket to get him through the day. It also exposes some serious issues with Trine. Wondering aloud whether he’s has become boring, her reply: “compared to what?” indicates the level of generalised ennui that inhabits their marriage. Clearly Vinterberg and his writer Lindholm are having a dig at Denmark’s drinking culture, but there’s more at play in this universal story that hints at a society that has never had to strive hard to enjoy a leisurely companionable lifestyle and comparable material success.
The story revolves around an experiment with alcohol. And filming must have been entertaining, with cut glasses tumblers never half full: the finest vodka, wine and champagne known to humanity is very much the order of the day. And seen with sober eyes the antics occasionally seem decadent. But that’s very much the intention. Rather than savouring the taste or delicacy, the alcoholic kick is the watchword here. Apparently there is a theory that we are all born with a deficit of alcohol in our bodies, and a steady stream helps us operate on a more positive, relaxed level. Comparisons are drawn with great leaders such as Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt and the men enjoy imbibing as the tone gradually darkens.
Martin relies on a steady stream of alcohol to give him confidence and expansive energy for his rowdy and questioning teenagers who have noticed lapses in his concentration, and are now more engaged in the learning process. But gradually the drunken episodes become more frequent for all them – and their manic booze-fuelled binges in the summery countryside gradually take the film on a more sombre journey that ends in a sobering wake-up call all round. MT
OSCAR – BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE 2021