Another Round (Danish film with subtitles on BookMyShow); Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Lars Ranthe, Magnus Millang, Maria Bonnevie; Direction: Thomas Vinterberg; Rating: * * * * (four stars)
BY VINAYAK CHAKRAVORTY
Midlife crisis gets a heady twist in Thomas Vinterberg’s tragicomedy, serving Mads Mikkelsen on the rocks. “Another Round” (titled “Druk” in original Danish version) kicks in its plot by reversing the premise of alcoholism as cinema normally peddles it. For a change, this isn’t about binge-swigging youngsters who invite trouble with sozzled antics. While that bunch indifferently lolls about fiddling with their smartphones in this film, the story here is about their fathers who drink themselves into misadventure.
But Vinterberg’s film isn’t necessarily just about midlife crisis. It is about understanding the inherent midlife crisis of its four protagonists through the lens of coming-of-age confusion. There’s an element of likeness among addictions — the smartphone and the bottle — that the plot points at. If the young everywhere are increasingly poring over their touch screens for social media solace, and the middle-aged are yet to grow up beyond similar emotional fragility — at least, going by this script. The forces driving both are loneliness and the need to belong.
The element of midlife crisis becomes all the more interesting because its victims — four friends — are teachers, men who must, at all times, be in control before their wards. The four friends teach in the same school in an unspecified town of Denmark, and their individual stories underline all that has gone wrong with their lives.
Martin (Mikkelsen) is a history teacher and father of two, navigating rough weather at home with wife Anika (Maria Bonnevie). Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen), is the games instructor and a bachelor. Peter (Lars Ranthe), also a bachelor, teaches music, while Nikolaj (Magnus Millang) is the psychology teacher. He is married, and has three little boys who leave him with little time for himself.
One day, Nikolaj comes up with a most original theory, citing the Norwegian psychologist, Finn Skarderund. He claims the blood-alcohol level in humans is normally lower than optimum, and suggests that if a person were to drink enough to restore the deficit (said to be 0.5 per cent), life could be beautiful in every way. There would also be a marked improvement in whatever one does.
It starts off as a ride on the wild side for the friends, as they set about with their wonky experiment. Vinterberg and co-writer Tobias Lindholm craft a bittersweet account riding humour that, by turns, unfolds as subtle wit and in-your-face slapstick. Yet there is the undercurrent bleakness that never leaves their lives. Driven partly by the need to succeed with their experiment and partly by growing addiction, the four friends begin drinking in school, too.
“Another Round” unfolds amidst all-too-believable characters and narrative backdrop, but never gets too commentative about its protagonists. It’s fascinating to note how a storyline about alcoholics portrays its protagonists with the comic quotient intact, but never resorts to the caricature cliches that cinema often reserves for drunkard portrayals.
A remarkable cast does impressively while bringing to life the characters. Mikkelsen, particularly, goes characteristically minimal for maximum impact, while bringing alive Martin. It is an authorbacked role, flawlessly rendered.
The actor and his castmates get ample support from a crew that excel in every aspect of filmmaking — Sturla Brandth Grovlen’s cinematography and Janus Billeskov Jansen’s music are particularly exceptional for the way they bring alive Vinterberg’s storytelling, never letting the film’s grey subtext overshadow its entertainment value. Mikkelsen, Vinterberg and company have mixed it just right — wicked, funny, and ironic in the right proportions. Deservedly, a contender at the Oscars for Best Director and Best International Feature Film, though we’d root for a nomination for Mikkelsen, too.