After collaborating on 2012’s sublime The Hunt, reuniting fan favourite Mads Mikkelsen and director Thomas Vinterberg is always an exciting prospect. Their latest collaboration is Another Round (Druk), a darkly comedic drama that attempts to plumb the depths of drunkenness and analyse its effects on the human psyche.
The key plot of Another Round focuses on a theory that to perform at an optimal level, a human being should always have a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) level of 0.05%. However, the film awkwardly shoehorns this in to set up its main story. A conveniently introduced topic of conversation between friends at a birthday dinner, this theory suddenly takes over their lives. These men, four teachers meandering through life, decide to test it out for themselves, as a ‘psychological experiment’. What follows is a somewhat muddled but ultimately compelling piece of filmmaking.
As these men respond positively to their strict practices of self-medication by consuming various forms of alcohol, their desire to push further edges them into murky territory. Their drinking habits consistently increase to unhealthy levels, which is where Another Round loses focus. Blurred much like its characters, the film just can’t quite find the right tone. It’s unclear how Vinterberg wants this film to be seen. Whether it wants to be a damning criticism of alcoholism and drinking culture or serve as a somewhat satirical dark comedy is genuinely a guessing game.
As the characters fail to maintain balance (sometimes literally) between the experiment and their day to day lives, the film’s mood does the same. At its best, the film is a boatload of fun, capturing the joys of drunkenness perfectly. The characters’ loss of inhibitions breaks the film free of its more serious shackles. It’s certainly a film you can’t help but have a chuckle at. It shows the appeal of this theory, yet when its consequences begin to manifest themselves, can’t quite find a way to connect to the audience on a deeper level.
The moving yet predictable emotional catalysts in the film don’t quite have the expected payoff, which is partly down to its confused tone. Whilst it seems to ask a lot of questions, you’re mostly left without an answer to any of them. However, the final sequence, a dazzling, fist-pumping combination of celebration, music and a frankly thrilling dance routine by Mikkelsen is an absolute triumph.
Mikkelsen is unsurprisingly the highlight of Another Round, brilliant as ever. He affects with such subtlety and a nuanced quietness that makes his history-teaching character Martin so easy to root for. It’s hard not to egg him on as he continually pushes boundaries, the positive effect of the alcohol on his life shines through the powerful yet minute changes in Mikkelsen’s facial expressions. Through charm, humour and pain, it’s effortless to form a connection with Martin, even at his worst. A testament to Mikkelsen’s lofty acting ability and his best performance for years.
Though Mikkelsen inevitably steals the show, Another Round is further elevated by a strong supporting cast. Thomas Bo Larsen, as PE teacher Tommy, offers a heartfelt portrayal of loneliness and self-destructive behaviour. He serves as the film’s emotional crux, that whilst predictable, offered a certain poignancy. Magnus Millang, as Nikolaj, the psychology teacher who pitched the theory to the group, is hilariously manic. Almost sinister at points, Millang’s pinpoint timing make him a complex, interesting character. Finally, Lars Ranthe as Peter, is affable, dedicated, though not without questionable morals. Though he’s generally a caring, soft-spoken music teacher, he takes risks advising his students. Each supporting performance is distinctive and the cast displays irresistible chemistry that works so well.
Where Another Round also succeeds, is with some smart technical elements. The combination of sound mixing and editing is generally an inspired one, save for one jarring montage that felt like some heavy-handed politics. Highly satisfying also is the sound design, with the clinking of glass never sounding so good. The superb camerawork, utilising the close-up particularly well, is visually impressive. The framing, in general, is a key component here, reflecting the dynamics of the characters perfectly. All in all, it’s a vibrant audio-visual experience.
Sadly let down by a lack of identity, Another Round doesn’t quite know what it wants to say. However, it’s a hell of a fun ride. Anchored by a typically standout Mads Mikkelsen and strong supporting performances, these are characters you invest in. Technically slick with electric energy, it’s gripping and fundamentally entertaining. Watch out though, it might just leave you gasping for a drink.
Words by Elliott Jones
Other reviews from the London Film Festival can be found here.