Tom Crowley gets the drinks in.
Thomas Vinterberg’s latest cinematic offering is best to be enjoyed with the finest product the North-East of England has to offer- Newcastle Brown Ale. In Another Round four school-teachers, who – in their own minds – have passed their peak, put the Norwegian psychologist Finn Skarderud’s hypothesis that human beings are at their optimum when they have a 0.05% alcohol in their bloodstream to the test. Needless to say, these middle-aged men take this theory to the maximum, all in the name of science.
Mads Mikkelson plays a depressed History teacher Martin, who is out of touch, not only with his students but also with his wife and two sons. While celebrating his friends (psychology teacher and the ‘brains’ of the operation) Nikolaj’s 40th birthday, Martin has what can only be described as a breakdown. He wipes away the tears from his angular cheekbones as the men reminisce about the past in the ideal and the present in it’s sobering reality. All of this over the cold fresh fizzing of the finest champagne the restaurant they are dining in has to offer. Martin is drinking soda water (without lemon), he is driving because the day before he has been given a wake-up call by both students and parents alike.
Whether Martin is aware of the severity of his depression is unclear, but the fact of the matter is he is coasting through precious existence with a massive degree of apathy. He along with his buddies, the aforementioned Nikolaj, Tommy, a divorced P.E. teacher and Peter, a music teaching bachelor are hooked by Skarderud’s intriguing conjecture. Thus, Thomas Vinterberg’s joyous film sparks to life. He contrasts their refined, 40-something, fine dining experience, with the group arm-wrestling and rolling around on the pavement like ten-year old boys. Martin finds himself, the next day, nipping vodka in the school’s bathroom. If Winston Churchill can do it, why can’t he?
In a lesser filmmaker’s hands, Another Round, could have been a didactic film experience. It is nothing of the sort. You ride the crest of a wave with these characters and also feel the lows, when outside of their own revelrous bubble, reality closes in. It is a tender film which deals with how alcohol, as a drug, can bring highs and lows – it is most importantly not descending from any moralistic high ground. Gregariously consumed by the masses there is a stigma perpetuated by those same masses about the negative effects of the substance. Vinterberg knows and sees the balance. The film contains easily the best two scenes of the past 12 months. One being the Cissy Strut-soundtracked indulgence, and the other, the film’s culmination, a portrait of self expression that can only be achieved through song and dance.
While Vinterberg deals with the effect the experiment has on this motley crew individually, he also never steers away from the larger picture at hand. There is a telling scene towards the end of the film that purports Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard’s concept of anxiety – you must accept yourself as fallible in order to love life and others. Bookended by Scarlet Pleasure’s ‘What a Life’ Another Round is also never far away from Homer Simpson’s philosophy that alcohol is the cause of and solution to all of life’s problems.
Another Round is in selected cinemas now.