Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Another Round: Movie Review

Universal themes of life, love and death.

My only previous Thomas Vinterberg experience is with The Hunt. A movie I like but oh so frustrating. Another Round, while also starring Mads Mikkelsen as a teacher, is a very different creature. Another examination of human experience and consequences and action, but more sweeping and all encompassing.   2020

Directed by: Thomas Vinterberg

Screenplay by: Thomas Vinterberg, Tobias Lindholm

Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Magnus Millang

Four middle-aged men, all teachers at a high school, who have been friends for a varying number of years have reached a crossroads. Dissatisfied and lost their passion for every day life. Their friendship also consists of exchanging pleasantries at work and getting together when it’s somebody’s birthday. That’s the occasion that starts the film.

Martin (Mads Mikkelsen) is the central figure. He no longer connects with his wife, his history lessons at school are at best confusing and at worst completely inaccurate. His friends heard that parents came in to have a meeting with him about his wholly inappropriate classes. Their solution is drink more alcohol.

Nikolaj (Magnus Millang) is a psychology teacher and he relays a theory from a Norwegian philosopher that says humans are born with a blood alcohol level 0.05% too low. And, hey, Ernest Hemingway drank every day and he’s one of the best writers, so what could possibly go wrong? Meanwhile, the students – typical teenagers – are regularly engaging in extreme drinking games and the school’s administration is concerned with how they are going to put a stop to that.

The humour, especially in the first half, is really good. Martin’s history classes both the bad ones when sober are hilarious, and the good ones when slightly drunk are highly entertaining, and then the ones when he’s too drunk turn back to funny. There's also some smart commentary buried in the history lessons that will stay with me.

This is far from an alcohol is good (or bad) movie. This is about how four different men use alcohol to escape their current predicament in life, how that doesn’t exactly work as planned, and then we veer much more into the dramatic fallout. There’s life and death at stake, Martin tries to repair his marriage, Nikolaj tries to repair his family, and they still have students that they have to prepare for university.

The four men start out with such earnest intentions as doing this as a social experiment on the blood alcohol level for optimal performance in every day life, but then they use their results to alter their experiment, and before they know it, things have gotten out of hand.

Another Round has a really good balance of comedy and drama. The themes are very universal and not overly dark, but it does get heavy, and that’s what sets this above what seems like a comedy about drinking. It’s more accurately a drama about trying to balance the pleasures in life to keep life pleasurable.