Much like its main character, Another Round is a film firmly situated somewhere between thrill and disappointment.
The 19th-century French poet, Charles Baudelaire once wrote, “You have to be always drunk. That’s all there is to it — it’s the only way.” For Baudelaire, the notion of drunkenness is something mysterious, unearthly, and as he suggests, one has to be continually drunk “so as not to feel the horrible burden of time.” This Baudelairean concept accurately provides insight into what the well-known Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg aims for on different levels with his latest effort, Another Round (originally titled Druk, which roughly translates as “heavy drinking”). The film depicts the story of four middle-aged friends and high school teachers who are each struggling with professional and domestic midlife crises. One night, they decide to secretly put into practice a hypothesis by Norwegian philosopher and psychiatrist, Finn Skårderud: that it’s sensible to be continually drunk if one can steadily maintain a 0.05% BAC! For the male quartet, this decision doesn’t just turn into an act of resistance, a way of evincing their courage and self-confidence in the face of their personal difficulties, but it also becomes a relentless quest for them to regain their lost youth, libidinal desires, and unfulfilled dreams. In this way, Another Round resonates with Vinterberg’s other works, which likewise study the relationship between society and the individual, where deeply rooted customary (mis)behaviors and habits gradually begin to reveal their dark and destructive effects.
Here, what’s distinctive in Vinterberg’s aesthetic approach is that although he still utilizes some stylistic trademarks of Dogme 95 (for instance, hand-held camera and natural lighting), the film feels cozier, more gentle and less acerbic. These qualities lend the film an atmosphere of tragicomedy, as Vinterberg frequently injects doses of socio-political satire, such as with a playful interlude including archival footage of drunken politicians. Another Round also sees the reunion of the director and star Mads Mikkelsen (in the main role of Martin, the history teacher) eight years after their acclaimed collaboration in The Hunt, and as usual, Mikkelsen’s reliable presence anchors much of the film even if it’s largely the efforts of the ensemble that give Another Round its most vital energy. Vinterberg supports the film’s heavy character work through his ability to create an immersive mood or situation, integrating several impactful musical pieces, extracting poignancy throughout.
Still, Another Round has its share of deficiencies: though Vinterberg manages to generate some dramatic suspense, the straightforward narrative is at times predictable and didactic. But if there’s a more crucial problem, it’s that Vinterberg, like his characters, is far too fascinated with the film’s one idea, which he insists on playing out over and over — more forcefully and loudly each time, as if to make sure the audience doesn’t miss the point. As a result, some of the dramatic tension and the specifics of the many irresponsible behaviors come across as dubious, unconvincing in their clear artifice, and more-or-less abstracted from any concrete reality — even when we hear Martin’s wife Trine (Maria Bonnevie) say, “This entire country drinks like maniacs.”
But if Vinterberg seems to show his hand throughout the entire film, he still manages to save his trump card for the end: Another Round’s bittersweet final scene isn’t just one of the year’s most memorable endings, but it’s also where both Vinterberg and Mikkelsen realize their full potential. The same can’t be said for the rest of the film, but if there’s one thing that perfectly reflects the overall experience of Another Round, it’s to be found in the final still-shot of Mikkelsen’s Martin, suspended somewhere between thrill and disappointment. He’s a man (and it, a film) fixed between soaring and sinking. It’s a feeling viewers will likely share at film’s end.
Originally published as part of TIFF 2020 — Dispatch 4.