Another Round (Druk)
There’s a theory that we should be born with a small amount of alcohol in our blood, and that modest inebriation opens our minds to the world around us, diminishing our problems and increasing our creativity. Heartened by that theory, Martin and three of his friends, all weary high school teachers, embark on an experiment to maintain a constant level of intoxication throughout the workday. If Churchill won WW2 in a heavy daze of alcohol, who knows what a few drops might do for them and their students?
Initial results are positive, and the teachers’ little project turns into a genuine academic study. Both their classes and their results continue to improve, and the group feels alive again! As the units are knocked back, some of the participants see further improvement and others go off the rails. It becomes increasingly clear that while alcohol may have fuelled great results in world history, some bold acts carry consequences.
The concept of Thomas Vinterberg's Another Round (Druk) is so good that one hopes he was in the pub to celebrate with a drink when he or his go-to scriptwriter Tobias Lindholm (2016’s The Commune, 2013’s The Hunt and 2010’s Submarino) came up with it. Or maybe it was while he was on a great night out with the lads that Vinterberg decided to make a film inspired by Norwegian psychologist Finn Skårderud's obscure theory that man is born with a 0.05% blood-alcohol-level shortfall. Then the question becomes: what would happen to your well-being if you tried to keep yourself inebriated to this perfect level? Would man be happier? Who could resist such a great pitch, which could have been written on the back of a cigarette packet? Not Cannes, where Another Round (Druk) received the Official Selection label, nor the European Film Academy, nor the Toronto Film Festival, where it was also part of the Official Selection, nor the San Sebastián Film Festival, where the film has now had its physical world premiere, in competition, and not even the Danish Oscar selection committee, which has chosen it to represent the country in the Best International Film category.
It only seems right that once you come up with such a concept, it's then time to get the old gang together. And what a champagne moment it is seeing Vinterberg alumni Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Magnus Millang and Lars Ranthe in the same movie. They play high-school teachers in the midst of a mid-life crisis, who are looking to get their mojo back both at home and at work, and what better way than alcohol? There is something so subversive about this idea that it's almost a shame to report that even in cinema, alcohol plays out as a cure for life's ills, in precisely the way one would suspect. There is a hangover eventually. Initially, it feels like Vinterberg is going to celebrate alcohol as an all-encompassing remedy in a way that would make Withnail and I ecstatic. One nervous schoolchild is even told to have a drink to cure his anxiety over exams – and it works a treat. Teaching history, Mikkelsen's Martin starts telling the kids that alcohol is what links great men of the past. The shift in approach has his pupils looking at him like he's Robin William's John Keating. Then comes waking up with a headache.
But Vinterberg is a smart director and knows better than to allow any movie of his to be governed by a single, drunken concept. He uses the drinking ruse to entice us in, before revealing that this picture has a more profound message about how, when life seems meaningless and boring, it's sometimes a result of our failure to be honest with ourselves. And it's this keg of the story that makes Another Round (Druk) a tale that celebrates life’s highs and lows.
It's all helped through a stupendous performance by the drinker-in-chief: Mikkelsen's Martin. Working in his native tongue for the first time in ages, the thesp excels at playing someone in a massive rut, bored of teaching and with a marriage in the doldrums. The drinking works until it doesn't, but it gives him enough insight to understand that something has got to give. And it does so in a spectacular way. Will his life be any happier? Who knows, but at least inside, and outside, he's dancing.
Another Round (Druk) is a Danish-Swedish-Dutch co-production staged by Zentropa Entertainments, Film i Väst, Zentropa International Sweden, Topkapi Films and Zentropa International Netherlands. Its international sales have been entrusted to TrustNordisk.
Kaleem Aftab, Cineuropa