Also known as Another Round (2020)
Language – Danish/Swedish.
Director – Thomas Vinterberg
Writer – Thomas Vinterberg, Tobias Lindholm
Cast – Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Magnus Millang, Lars Ranthe.
Streaming on Amazon Prime.
DISCLAIMER : *SPOILER ALERT*. This review contains SPOILERS.
Human beings don’t deal well with stagnation. It’s simultaneously redeeming and damning, our unrelenting need to experience the inexperienced, to chart the uncharted.
Martin, a Danish high school history teacher is our protagonist. We are introduced to him in his classroom, it’s obvious that he has been a teacher for a while and any passion he might have had for teaching has long faded away. At home, he has grown distant from his wife and kids with his marriage on the rocks. Pushing almost 50, Martin feels trapped with no chance of breaking free.
Martin has three close friends who are also his colleagues/fellow teachers. Nikolaj, one of them, who teaches music is celebrating his 40th birthday with a lavish dinner at an upscale restaurant with the other three. Nikolaj puts forward a seemingly absurd theory by a Norwegian philosopher and psychiatrist who proposed that humans always lack 0.05 percent of alcohol in their blood level and ingesting alcohol in small quantities to maintain this level, makes you more confident, creative and easy-going. The conversation shifts around and is jovial at first, before Martin begins to tear up, his friends concerned, ask why. Martin can’t fathom how he ended up where he did, a job that gives him no satisfaction and a marriage on the brink of collapse.
The next day Martin, egged on by the desire to break new ground and escape his brutally mundane cycle, decides to take a leap of faith. He sneaks in some alcohol to school and drinks it discreetly. After work, he runs into Nikolaj and informs him, who is elated and proud to hear Martin has finally taken some initiative in turning his life around. Nikolaj immediately calls up the rest of the gang and they all decide to do the experiment together and document it in detail.
The setup is complete and the movie kicks into full gear after.
The four quickly regain their confidence, their passion, their zeal for teaching. Students become more receptive and start enjoying their classes. Everything’s going better than anyone expected until slowly the friends start finding it difficult to relegate their alcohol consumption to 0.05 BAC. Things spiral out of control from there, with Martin and Nikolaj making a scene at local businesses and ending up passed out on the street. After coming back home Martin finds out his wife has been unfaithful and in a fit of rage orders her to get out of their house.
Later Martin and the gang decide to abandon the experiment, after coming to the conclusion that there is no way to control one’s alcohol intake with the level of precision required for the experiment and it inevitably will devolve into full-blown alcoholism.
The third act of the movie follows, with events happening in quick succession. Martin has a series of realizations, but Vinterberg is careful to never explicitly tell us what they are. Instead, it’s alluded to in the dialogue and how differently Martin decides to handle his external problems.
There are no visually/technically impressive shots here, Vinterberg keeps it simple, preferring to block and frame his characters that best convey what they are going through in the scene. Its simplicity powers its efficacy. The script is tight and flows from one story beat to the next smoothly, with dialogue that strikes a balance between being realistic and just dramatic enough. Mads here, without exception, is brilliant and hits the right note for every scene. It’s not an iconic performance by any measure but a very effective one, the rest of the cast is on point as well, veteran actors delivering what’s needed from them.
The final scene will be the scene that is going to be remembered from the movie, and will probably put a smile on your face whenever it crosses your mind.
Martin makes his way into the swarm of students celebrating their graduation, cracks open a can of beer and launches into a fun, frenetic, delirious dance without a care in the world. “What a Life” by Scarlet Pleasure begins playing in the background perfectly complimenting the mood and state of our lead. Martin has accepted who he is ; that despite everything his life holds value.
He’s alive right now, right here, filled with pure joie de vivre.
Thomas Vinterberg originally wanted to make a movie about the complex relationship Danes have with alcohol, on one hand being enamoured by it and on the other being a very health-conscious society and trying to keep away from it. The idea was inspired by his daughter’s experiences of Danish drinking culture but a week into the movie’s production, she tragically died in a car accident. It was then, he decided to do a movie about men finding their Second Awakening or “Reawakening” later on in their lives after going through a period of ennui and quiescence. I like to think he succeeded.
What a life indeed.
Verdict: 6/7 Stars.
- Thomas Vinterberg and the four main actors often meet up and bond over drinks after filming scenes.
- According to Mads Mikkelsen, there was not any alcohol involved on shooting days. Yet off set, there was some experimentation on what specifically would happen at 0.5%, 0.8%… There was even a “little boot camp” to monitor how speech and movements changed. But for the “next crazy Charlie Chaplin level” the team watched a lot of YouTube videos.
Despite Corona restrictions by opening weekend it had sold 102,366 tickets, including 13,400 tickets in previews, in Denmark, thereby achieving the biggest opening weekend for a Danish drama in seven years. Total admissions have since reached over 750,000
The number of admissions for the film in Denmark was over half a million (in a country of 5.8 million people) in its first month.
- Official submission of Denmark for the Best International Feature Film category of the 93rd Academy Awards in 2021.
- Years ago, when Mads Mikkelsen’s daughter was a teenager, he picked her up at a party, and he picked a young guy up. He was dressed in a ’60s suit and really pointed shoes, and he was drunk as a dog. He was just totally drunk, and Mikkelsen’s daughter asked her father to drive the guy home, and Mikkelsen did that. Then the guy was insisting on carrying this whole crate of beers. He wanted it back home with him, and so they did that. And then a couple of months later, it happened again, the same guy. Mikkelsen just drove him home a couple of times. In a surreal coincidence, and unbeknownst to Mikkelsen, this guy’s, Emil Goll, who’s is the lead singer of the band Scarlet Pleasure, song “What a Life” accompanied the end scene of the film. It was Mikkelsen’s daughter who warned her father about it. With the words of Mikkelsen, “it was a crazy circle.”
- At the end, Martin begins to dance and incorporate choreography while extremely drunk after his wife messages him about giving their marriage another chance. Mads Mikkelsen did all the dancing by himself and did not use a body double. He had not danced professionally for almost 30 years and practiced with a friend and a choreographer. He had also stated it was written because Thomas Vinterberg wanted to see if he can still dance.
- Denmark has some of the highest rates of teenage drinking in the world; a World Health Organization report released earlier in 2020 found that Danish 15-year-olds consumed alcohol at nearly double the European average. Recent efforts to raise the minimum age for purchasing alcohol to 18 from 16 have met with resistance, in part because older adults recall their own youthful intoxications so fondly.