Another Round (Review)
Four middle aged Danish high school teachers congregate to celebrate one of their group's, Nikolaj's (Magnus Millang), fortieth birthdays. Reflecting upon their lives they discover they've settled into the mundane and their luster for life has evaporated. Nikolaj steers the conversation to the philosopher Finn Skarderud who states that humans are born with an alcohol level .05 too low for what should be normal. Increasing the daily level of alcohol in people's lives, hence the men's, could keep them from swerving into the gutter of the banal. This concept floats over them as they return to reality. Martin (Mads Mikkelsen) used to be the star teacher who could rally his students to the importance of history. But the years fell hard on him and deteriorated his enthusiasm which in turn affected his marriage and family. With the chance to bring back a bit of the glory days, Martin sneaks in a bottle of liquor and takes a hit before class. The alcohol goes to work and the shell that contained him breaks away. He rallies his students and at home attempts to dislodge the wall separating himself from his wife and two boys. His effort pays off as they bond like never before. But the sip he takes every day to loosen his nerves begins to grow bringing along with it, predictable trouble.
"Another Round" was written and directed by Thomas Vinterberg, one of the original Dogme 95 creators, who seems to be exploring the effects of alcohol consumption and the thinking around it. From what I can gather from "Another Round" Denmark has an issue with drinking since the high school students have drinking games out in public where they are intoxicated enough to vomit for all to witness. Are there issues that come with the consumption of alcohol? Of course and Mr. Vinterberg shows the trouble it can bring to the four friends, the two others being Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen) and Peter (Lars Ranthe).
This is an interesting film in so much as it doesn't tell us anything new about alcohol or its effects. Perhaps it's Mr. Vinterberg's volunteering to admit that Denmark is an alcoholic country and this is the first step toward recovery. The film follows the steps of anyone who's ever had an evening worth of drinks; the dreary day leading up to the happy hour, the interjection of joy the initial shots of alcohol provide and then the ton of bricks landing hard on them bringing along a couple of days worth of misery.
Having dealt with the effects of alcohol it's a tough watch knowing that an excuse to make their lives "fun" and "exciting" will only lead them toward troubles that will overshadow anything they thought was mundane. This includes the women to whom they try to improve their relationships with only to alienate them further. Mr. Vinterberg shows us the full scale of destruction alcohol can accomplish. The friends go from hangovers to tragedy but again, doesn't show us anything new.
What value this movie does bring is the pleasure of watching Mr. Mikkelsen work. He is one of those actors who rides on his looks but not in the movie star type of way. He has that devious presence that type casts him as a villain outside of his native Denmark which is a crime for such a talented actor. He's in a respected group of actors who are put in villainous roles due to their looks. That would include Sean Bean, to some extent Javier Bardem and Mr. Mikkelsen. The pleasure in watching these actors is that when they're giving layered roles they bring them to glorious life, Mr. Bean in "The Field", Mr. Bardem in "Before Night Falls" and Mr. Mikkelsen in this film. Mr. Vinterberg has given him a vehicle to showcase how far he can stretch his talents. And he's magnificent.