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The Comedy of Errors

Film Review: Another Round

16 July 21 words: Aaron Roe

Thomas Vintberg, director of revolutionary Danish black comedy Festen, is back with another sweet gulp of cinematic farce…

Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Magnus Millang
Running time: 117 minutes

Another Round opens mid-way through a drinking game between college students that’s sure to make a few of us Brits feel insecure. The ‘lake run’ sees contestants attempt to run around a city lake while simultaneously seeing off copious amounts of booze, and throwing up is punishable through point deduction and forfeits. It’s a short scene filled with so much youthful vitality, commendable frivolity and unadulterated joy – something that is directly juxtaposed by history teacher Martin (Mads Mikkelsen).

While the students are seizing life by the scruff of the neck, Martin has been somewhat caught up in the current of monotony. He’s a middle-aged husband, father of two with a stable job and a nice house. On the surface, Martin has done quite alright for himself – but Mikkelsen’s performance paints a much bleaker picture. “Have I become boring?”, Martin asks his wife with deadpan stoicism. It doesn’t take a psychoanalyst to work out that his mojo jumped ship years ago. His dissatisfaction has even bled into his profession, with one frustrated student labelling him ‘indifferent’.  

A dinner table discussion at a friend’s 40th birthday party proves to be the existential straw that breaks Martin's back in what is perhaps the most important scene in the movie. During a conversation concerning life’s mundanities, Martin – with the help of some very expensive social lubricant – can’t quite contain the tears as he confesses his deep unhappiness to his peers. Mikkelsen delivers the monologue with measured prose which makes it all the more heartbreaking, allowing his emotions to breathe like an opened bottle of wine. 

Alas, there is change on the horizon – especially when the subject of conversation turns to psychiatrist Finn Skårderud, who hypothesises that humans are at their best when their blood alcohol level is at 0.05 percent. Thus begins a story of communal dysfunction which seems something only Vinteberg could pull off as Martin puts Skårderud’s theory into practice. Instead of buying a dirt bike or a new sleeve tattoo, Martin grapples with his mid-life crisis through justified alcoholism.

A harmonious, textured ode to having a good time

Of course, Martin isn’t alone in all this. He’s the pissed piper for three other, equally stifled members of the teaching faculty. We have psychology teacher Nikolaj (Magnus Millang), music professor Peter (Lars Ranthe) and gym instructor Tommy (Thomas Bo Larson). Each actor brings a heady blend of melancholic mania to their increasingly hedonistic escapades. 

Vinteberg’s direction has its usual snappiness and colour, but what struck me the most is the honesty in which he serves up his story. He understands the affinity we have with the translucent ambers and reds, the soothing clinks of ice and snapping the seal of a bottle of Smirnoff. Vintbergs fetishisation of alcohol as an aesthetic certainly plays on our desires as an audience. It goes without saying that the premise itself – four bored men maintaining a consistent level of inebriation under the pretence of a social experiment – comes with an array of hilarities, to which the film acts accordingly.

Propelling the film is a darkly comic tension that dominates the atmosphere. It’s comparable to watching a blacked-out drunk friend veering awfully close to the curb of a busy road. An image of dropping down licks of vodka at 8am, whilst listening to classical music as if on the verge of some great discovery comes to mind. Narratively, Another Round is paced very much like going out on the town. In the first act we have that yearning anticipation for some shred of excitement. Act number two has the buzzing ascension – the men are genuinely galvanised by their new commitment in their social and professional lives. But, very much like alcohol itself, it's fun until it’s not and the third act is caught under the grey cloud of a hangover, which puts everything into perspective.

Some may feel like Another Round glorifies alcohol whilst brushing over its ramifications, but that’s precisely the point. Vintberg doesn’t preach because he doesn’t need to – the audience is familiar with the bittersweet complexities of alcohol. Of course, the film touches on tragedy, but its heart lies within reconnection, celebration, catharsis and ultimately, rebirth. Anchored by phenomenal performances, Another Round proves to be a harmonious, textured ode to having a good time – themes that seem especially timely and poignant in today’s climate.

Did you know? Although there was no alcohol on set, according to Mikkelson there was a ‘little boot camp’ to test the 0.05 percent theory. Now that’s method acting.

Another Round is now in cinemas

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