Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Thomas Vinterberg was, alongside Lars Von Trier, one of the few Dogme 95 members to thrive and remain cinematically essential long after the movement of “cinematic chastity” began to wane. Obviously it was fleeting, especially as digital fidelity increased, the filmic experiments have become footnotes in the larger context of film history, though that is not to diminish their quality or their influence as masterpieces like Vinterberg’s The Celebration and Von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark made a marked impact, look no further than Korine’s heralded Julien Donkey-Boy or Spike Lee’s unappreciated Bamboozled, whose loose, kinetic, digital cinematography owe much to that short-lived movement. Both auteurs have respectively grown up as filmmakers, and though Von Trier’s suicidal tendencies (and controversies) have plagued him for the last decade, his cinema of self-loathing rivaling Huston and Peckinpah’s, Vinterberg has remained a bit more flexible both in terms of genre and region, making some English films that one would be hard pressed to find his distinctive stamp on, however, his 2012 film The Hunt reignited interest in his filmography as a critical entity, due in part to the powerhouse performance from Mads Mikkelsen in the lead role. Mikkelsen returns in his latest effort Another Round (Druk), which in a year of fetishizing, unrealistic takes on alcoholism and addiction, offers a sobering, painful and acutely cultural look at an experiment amidst a collective mid-life crisis that goes horribly awry towards it’s inevitable, slipping conclusion.
The film opens with one of the best scenes in Vinterberg’s oeuvre, a group of drunken school-kids participate in a tradition that sees them binge-drinking until the point of untenable sloppiness, the scene becomes much more important as the film brings it into startling context. Nietzsche was famous for critiquing European alcoholism and how it was a culture, many of its “conquests” were justified by famed alcoholics committing atrocities and genocides throughout the world and being heralded as “wild men”, which Mikkelsen brings up to his class in an incredible scene in which he grabs their interest by pointing out to his students that Churchill, amongst other famous American and European leaders, drank throughout the day and smoked cigars, while Hitler (perhaps one the most notorious misinterpreters of Nietzschian philosophy) was a sober, well as far as he knew, with the benefit of history we know that his advisors were feeding him amphetamines labeled as “vitamins”, causing an unstable, erratic murderer to spiral further into madness, but that’s not the drug this film concerns itself with.
The film begins in monotony, quite wisely framing it’s foursome of characters as bored, aging teachers whose best years have long passed them by, in contrast to the children whose hope is brimming, so far that the students parents meet with Mikkelsen’s Martin to discuss his harsh grading system so they can enter into good universities. Martin stumbles on information, his brain ailing, his wit and intelligence fading. At a birthday party for a friend, one of them pitches a theory that another colleague developed that humans were born with an alcohol deficiency, and this convinces the men to engage in an experiment where they sustain a blood-alcohol level of 0.05% at all times, now this was likely mentioned in passing, but these four individuals are uniquely primed for this to be an opportunity rather than a comical hypothetical. At first, everything appears to be a success, all men find themselves more bold, lively and engaged in their daily affairs. To spoil the fallout, would be to sap Vinterberg of his magic, and disavow Mikkelsen of what is likely the greatest performance of his career, finally allowed the grace, precision and charisma he carries in his interviews and personality as an adored public figure.
Another Round is a terrific film. There was a lot of cinematic cynicism in the last year. Things have gotten pretty bad in terms of conglomerate entertainment, and you know what, everybody is perfectly happy eating from the trough so keep feasting y’all, producers and writers will keep shoveling you shit, however, if you are looking for a sparkling, earnest, pleading diamond in the rough that articulates an essential facet of the human experience then do yourself a favor and let Vinterberg, Mikkelsen and company whisk you away for an evening to their magnetic world of spiritual desolation and impossible, aching togetherness. You just might rethink that next drink you are about to have. Or, perhaps more tellingly, screw it and tie one on. Either way, Another Round will send you reeling.