Another Round

Now playing in Australian cinemas.

* * * *

Conceptually, Another Round sounds like a high-concept early 2000s comedy starring Will Ferrell, Jack Black, Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson: four teachers decide, in order to raise their dynamism at work and in general life, to experiment with staying a little bit drunk pretty much all the time. Specifically, they intend to follow the hypothesis of a Norwegian psychiatrist named Finn Skårderud, who suggested that human beings would operate best with a consistent level of .05% blood alcohol. In the Ferrell / Black / Stiller / Wilson theoretical version, wacky inebriated hi-jinks would ensue, inevitably leading to some regretful actions and, in all likelihood, an ultimate repudiation of the experiment.

But this is not that movie; it is director Thomas Vinterberg’s (written with Tobias Lindholm, together one of the great screenwriting teams on the planet), and it stars Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Magnus Millang and Lars Ranthe. While there are humorous moments, the style is naturalistic realism, and the tone is mournful and often dark. It takes a high-concept, somewhat ludicrous premise, and plays it straight: what would happen?

I think we all know what would happen, and Vinterberg knows we know, so whatever delights the film will offer, it will offer in execution, and they are many. The script, despite generally heading in an inevitable direction, is surprising and complex, with sublime dialogue and fascinating character detail; the cinematography is organic but touched constantly by magic (particularly involving some seriously beautiful twilights and sunsets) and the acting is spectacular, with Mikkelsen (who is very much the lead) giving a monumental performance (in a career full of them). Framed often in very tight close-up, Mikkelsen’s Martin has a face of bruised solitude, his eyes sad, lonely, desperate and needy until they are invigorated, in strange and intriguing ways, by the booze.

This is a wonderful movie, challenging, provocative, a little subversive, and totally engaging. It is Denmark’s entry for Best International Film at this year’s Oscars, and it could win.

One thought on “Another Round

  1. Was very disappointed in this film. As you say, the premise is ludicrous and I found it hard to get beyond that. It seemed so twentieth century. Is Denmark really a ‘nation that drinks like maniacs’ as one of the women in the film say? Surely it cannot be that far out of line with the rest of the world which has worked out that alcohol is not good on so many levels. OK, maybe the first 0.05% BAC makes some sense [but if it does why is drinking in the workplace universally banned?] but to then extend that to total intoxication was ridiculous.

    As for the mid-life crises these four men were apparently facing, well so what? It’s such a familiar story [it’s simply part of life for countless people] that it hardly needs telling yet again. I felt little for them. They seemed like adult cry-babies who needed to get a serious grip on life.

    I generally like Danish TV and cinema, and the acting was pretty good – but the story was dull and cliched.

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