Format: Streaming video from Hulu Plus on rockin’ flatscreen
If you’re at all a fan of British sketch comedy, you’re likely to be familiar with David Mitchell and Robert Webb. Mitchell and Webb have had a series of shows on British television, my favorite being “That Mitchell and Webb Look.” One of their better sketches involves a group of people who vaguely control the world behind the scenes, mostly by being mildly drunk all of the time. Known colloquially as “The Inebriati” but preferring to go by “The Knights Tipler,” they seek to influence the world based on the fact that everything seems nicer when you’ve had just short of two drinks. This is a roundabout way of saying that I watched Another Round (known in the Danish as Druk, which translates roughly as “binge drinking”).
We’re going to spend most of our time with Martin (Mads Mikkelsen), a history teacher at a Copenhagen gymnasium. He’s an uninspired and uninspiring teacher to the point that his students and their parents aren’t sure they want him to be in charge of their upcoming exams. At the 40th birthday dinner of his colleague Nikolaj (Magnus Millang), Martin breaks down. He is bored with his life and feels like he is losing touch with his wife and children. It turns out that Nikolaj is in much the same place—his children dominate his life and his wife treats him with contempt.
After the dinner, Martin, Nikolaj, and fellow teachers and diners Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen) and Peter (Lars Ranthe) decide to try an experiment. Based on what is essentially a misreading of the work of philosopher Finn Skårderud, the four decide to see what happens if they start drinking. Essentially, they are under the impression that Skårderud thinks that everyone is born with a .05% deficit of alcohol in their bloodstream. Essentially, they are going to test that the will be at their best if they are just short of legally drunk.
And it works. Suddenly, all four of them find themselves energized at work. Martin starts to work much more diligently on his marriage and starts to connect with his students and teach them in new and interesting ways. The others find the same thing to be true. The quartet tries a few other experiments, working with higher blood alcohol levels and seeing how it affects their work and their personal lives. And while there are changes, they aren’t always what they initially believe they are.
Another Round is described as a comedy, and while it does have some funny moments, it is a comedy only in the blackest of senses. This is not a film about addiction, although it does move in those circles in certain places. After an “experiment” in which the four get as drunk as the possibly can, Martin is forced to admit to his kids that he got very drunk the night before. His kids are not surprised by this, with one of them responding, “Haven’t you been drunk for awhile?” That’s a theme that runs through the movie—the four teachers are convinced that they are hiding their drinking from everyone and they are actually hiding it from no one; everyone knows.
I am starting to wonder exactly what needs to be done to get an Oscar (or even a Golden Globe) in the hands of Mads Mikkelsen. The man is good in everything, and while he doesn’t carry this movie on his own, he does carry the lion’s share of it. Martin is a character who is immediately understandable and just as immediately pathetic. He’s a sympathetic character because he is so tragic, but his tragedy is that he is completely ordinary. His experiment in keeping his blood alcohol level above .05% (never after 8PM and never on weekends) seems like such a grand thing in how he sees himself and it really seems to be nothing more than just an excuse to do some serious day drinking. Much of what makes Martin worth watching is the performance of Mikkelsen, who is always on the top of his game. The man can’t even get a nomination for an Oscar.
The same can be said of Thomas Vinterberg, who at least managed to swing a nomination. I’ve liked or at least respected everything I’ve seen from Vinterberg, and Another Round is very much in that realm.
This is a damn good film. I liked this a great deal. It did manage to win the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Feature, and for whatever reason the 1001 Movies editors decided to leave it out of the latest book. For shame; it should be there.
Why to watch Another Round: You should always watch Mads Mikkelsen.
Why not to watch: Cirrhosis.