ANOTHER ROUND

Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Thomas Vinterberg

Stars: Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Magnus Millang, Lars Ranthe, Maria Bonnevie, Helene Reingaard Neumann.

See the source image

The Danish drinking culture is put under the microscope in this new feature from director Thomas Vinterberg, an adherent of Lars Von Trier’s Dogma school of filmmaking.

Mads Mikkelsen is reunited with Vinterberg, who directed him in The Hunt, the tense 2012 drama about a kindergarten teacher falsely accused of molesting one of his students. Here plays another teacher. Martin is a jaded and weary history teacher undergoing something of a midlife crisis. He is drowning in self-pity and his relationship with his wife Anika (Maria Bonnevie) has grown distant. He is merely going through the motions, reading from a history textbook but failing to make it seem interesting or relevant to his students.

But then he attends a party with three of his colleagues who are similarly jaded and disconcerted with their lot in life – soccer coach Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen, another of Vinterberg’s regular collaborators), philosophy teacher Nikolaj (Magnus Millang), and music teacher Peter (Lars Ranthe). They decide to test a pseudo-scientific theory from psychiatrist Finn Skarderud that maintaining a constant level of alcohol in their blood will make them better teachers. They set in place some rules to follow, and also set out to document their experiment. At first the experiment seems to be successful, as Martin rediscovers his energy and enthusiasm and begins to deliver more engaging lessons that resonate with his students, while Tommy’s little league soccer team becomes a winning combination. Peter’s choir even manages to sing in harmony. But then the four decide to push the limits even further, which has unexpected and even tragic consequences.

There have been other films that have dealt with the issue of alcoholism, notably Billy Wilder’s 1946 Oscar winning drama The Lost Weekend, but Another Round tackles the problem from a different perspective. While this tragicomedy explores some universal themes – midlife crises, growing old, lost youth and forgotten dreams, the bonds of male friendships – it is laced with touches of humour which leavens the darker moments. And the gorgeous cinematography from Sturla Brandth Grovlen (Rams, etc) adds to the sense of energy flowing through the film and further enhances the mood.

Vinterberg originally wrote Another Round as a play while he was working in the theatre. His daughter Ida had some input into this tragicomedy, but she tragically died in a car crash just four days into filming. After her death, Vinterberg and his frequent cowriter Tobias Lindholm reworked the script to give it a melancholy and reflective nature and also make it more optimistic and life affirming.

The always excellent Mikkelsen has a strong and commanding screen presence and delivers a solid, visceral and physical performance as Martin, He inhabits the character and slowly peels back the layers to reveal more, especially in the bittersweet and cathartic final scene when he dances exuberantly on a pier in a liberating moment.

★★★☆

Speak Your Mind