The Movie Waffler BFI London Film Festival 2020 Review - ANOTHER ROUND | The Movie Waffler

Sponsor

BFI London Film Festival 2020 Review - ANOTHER ROUND

another round review
Four middle-aged teachers put into practice the theory that maintaining a constant level of alcohol in your blood leads to a more enlightened state of being.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Thomas Vinterberg

Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Magnus Millang, Lars Ranthe, Maria Bonnevie

another round poster


If chicken soup is Jewish penicillin, alcohol is Northern European paracetamol. As much as the governments of our windswept nations may attempt to discourage us, alcohol is an essential part of our culture. It helps make our awful winters a little more bearable and it allows us to express ourselves emotionally in a way we simply can't while sober. Is this a failing of the Northern European mentality? Sure, but we're stuck with it. Unlike our Mediterranean and American cousins, we're a stoic lot, and it often takes a degree of alcohol for us to embrace life. I recall as a child waiting up for my parents to arrive back from a night out, as with a few drinks on them they were at their most fun, and many of my fondest memories are blurred because I was off my tits at the time. Of course, alcohol destroys a lot of lives, but on the aggregate it does more good than harm. Getting wasted is a lot of fun. That's an unpopular statement nowadays, but as much as we deny our Northern European nature, it holds true. We're not Southern Europeans, who can spend six hours around a dinner table and engage in deep conversations while stone cold sober. We need to be rat-arsed to feel comfortable broaching certain topics and expressing uncomfortable emotions. It's who we are, and the sooner we admit it to ourselves and stop pretending we can magically morph from a pub culture into a café culture, the happier we'll all be.

another round review

It's hard to think of a movie that's pro-alcohol. Certainly English language cinema has always adopted a puritanical attitude to drinking. The closest I can think of to a film that argues the case for alcohol as medicine for the soul is Marco Ferreri's 1981 Charles Bukowski adaptation Tales of Ordinary Madness, in which Ben Gazzara'a alcohol consumption sets him apart from the stuffy sobriety of American society. Thomas Vinterberg's Another Round owes a debt to Tales of Ordinary Madness and another Ferreri film, 1973's La Grande Bouffe, in which four men retreat to a country manor with a plan to eat themselves to death.


Vinterberg similarly gathers a quartet of despondent middle-aged male protagonists, four school teachers going through the motions in both their professional and home lives. Over a dinner thrown in honour of one of their number turning 40 - that round number that makes so many of us reflect on what a waste of oxygen our lives have been - the conversation turns to Norwegian philosopher Finn Skarderud and his theory that maintaining a certain blood-alcohol content level is essential to living an enlightened life. The men decide to put Skarderud's theory into practice, agreeing to remain tipsy throughout the work day, but not to drink past 8pm or at weekends.

another round review

Initially, this yields largely positive results. History teacher Martin (Mads Mikkelsen) finds a new spark in his troubled marriage and begins to connect with his pupils in a way he never could before (a clever scene has him con the kids into admitting they would vote for Hitler if they chose political candidates based on superficial ideas like behaviour and politeness). PE teacher Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen) is able to open up to the young members of his football team with an honesty he previously kept repressed, inspiring them to winning ways. Peter (Lars Ranthe) helps a troubled pupil who obsesses over failing his exams by encouraging him to have a couple of shots of vodka to steady his nerves before taking an exam, which works wonders for the boy. Nikolaj (Magnus Milling), who proposed the experiment, is driven to document and further tweak the ongoing project.


When absinthe is introduced and the men are encouraged to take things to the level of "total oblivion", it's no surprise when things come crashing down around them as they are simply too wrecked to carry out their daily tasks. But this isn't a case of simply pouring scorn on the idea of drinking. If there's a moral here it's that a little alcohol can help you come out of your shell, a social lubricant if you will, so long as you don’t become dependant. When NASA proponents are asked why so much money should be spent on trying to reach Mars when we have so many problems on our own planet that need taking care of, they usually tell us that we may never reach Mars but that the knowledge we acquire in our pursuit of such a distant goal can be put to use here on Earth. Something similar happens with Martin and co here. In aiming for total oblivion they find a level on the path that does indeed improve their lives, even if they have to keep their drinking a secret from those around them.

another round review

Just as getting hammered is a lot of fun, so too is watching others get destroyed, and for the most part, Another Round is a joyous experience. Apparently the cast were required to actually get drunk while filming, which lends a verisimilitude to their onscreen behaviour. There are a couple of drink-fuelled dance sequences that are simply filled with a love of life. At time of writing, all the pubs and nightclubs in my country are closed due to COVID-19, which made viewing Another Round feel like a nostalgic glimpse into a past that may never completely return. If that's the case, Vinterberg's film is a warm, feelgood document of the life we once enjoyed, even if we felt guilty about relying on alcohol to fully embrace it.

Another Round screens on BFI Player and in UK cinemas from October 14th as part of the BFI London Film Festival 2020.

2020 movie reviews