Another Round makes for an effective black comedy about four friends committed to obtaining higher consciousness through constant alcohol intake.
Another Round’s brilliant concept sees four friends, high school teachers in their 40s and 50s, make a pact to embrace the teaching of an obscure Danish philosopher who argues that human beings were born with approximately 0.05% alcohol in their bodies at all times. Essentially, the theory argues is that each person is “more relaxed and poised and musical in general” with alcohol in their system and so the friends – each discontented in his own way – undertake an experiment to improve their boring lives through a constant stream of drinking.
The film sees the reunion of star Mads Mikkelsen and director Thomas Vinterberg (Far from the Madding Crowd), whose previous team-up, The Hunt, saw Academy Award, BAFTA, and Golden Globe nominations for Best Foreign Language film. In Mikkelsen, Vinterberg has one of the most committed and intense actors in the business today. Part of the film’s joy is to see Mikkelsen lighten up a bit. While he is best known to American audiences for a string of villainous performances in, among others, Casino Royale, Doctor Strange, and TV’S Hannibal, his European work oft sees him as a man of deep intensity like his near wordless physical transformation into a crusading warrior in Nicolas Winding Refn’s Valhalla Rising.
Here, Mikkelsen plays a high school history teacher, Martin, stuck in a professional and personal rut. When he asks his wife if he’s become boring, she skirts the question. Martin’s students seem almost as disinterested in his world history lectures as he does. It is with the infusion of alcohol into his teaching method that Martin comes alive, and not just in his bloodstream. Soon, his lectures have taken on the breezy quality of a drunken bar room chat, and his focus has moved onto the drinking exploits of many of histories most famed booze hounds. Churchill’s love of the bottle and Hemingway’s drinking ethos become heroic virtues to his students, and Martin bonds with his students over his pragmatic awareness of their drinking habits. His lessons are as funny and compelling for the viewers as the newly engaged students.
The film would not work nearly as well if Martin’s friends were not so well cast. Magnus Milang (The Command), Lars Ranthe (The Hunt), and Thomas Bo Larsen (also The Hunt) manage to make fast impressions despite limited screentime. Each is given an effectively humanizing arc, and taken together their banter has the sort of chemistry you would expect from a group of friends. Perhaps more impressively, the performers manage to maintain the subtle unstated tension of peers at different stages of their lives without the need to read subtext aloud. There’s a universe where each friend could have been the lead.
Thematically, the easy conclusion would have been for Vinterberg to lead all of our characters to personal ruin and the stark realization that a life spend imbibing is a disastrous choice. While, certainly, the characters each struggle with the consequences of their drinking as the pact increases in alcohol fueled intensity, Vinterberg does not leave us with such an easy ending. Rather, he ends in a place with a far more nuanced, thought provoking outcome.
Every year there’s a foreign language film or two – usually a comedy – that exudes the inevitability that it is going to be remade by a Hollywood studio. Oft the concept is such an easy to package winner that it’s near impossible to imagine someone won’t pursue the easy money of an American remake. It is perhaps disappointingly easy to imagine a new version with a crew of Jason Bateman, Walton Goggins, Danny McBride, and Vince Vaughn playing these roles in a crasser, far less intelligent remake. Do yourself a favor and track down this version so you can be ahead of the 2022 remake.
Another Round premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on Saturday, September 12, 2020 and is now available to watch on digital and on demand.