From the Danish auteur Thomas Vinterberg, “Druk /Another Round” is a refreshing presentation highlighting what we all go to the cinema for, to see magnetic characters and immersive stories that compel and plunge us into a kind of suspense.
The film is a rich and evocative experience and perhaps its best aspect is that it allows the viewer to make up his/her own mind. Martin (Mads Mikkelsen) is a melancholic, enervated teacher. He can’t quite discern what is wrong but Martin just doesn’t feel right. He asks his wife Anika (Maria Bonnevie) if she feels he is now boring. Anika says yes, Martin has changed.
Martin goes to his friend Nikolaj’s (Magnus Millang) birthday party attended by other friends from his youth Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen) and Peter (Lars Ranthe). All are teachers at the same school and it is revealed that Tommy, Peter and Nikolaj drink heavily, given the opportunity. Martin while perhaps not a teetotaler, has mostly abstained.
The three friends suggest that Martin might pull himself out of his malaise by drinking. They discuss the psychotherapist Finn Skårderud and his theory that if one keeps their blood alcohol level at a constant .05 he or she can stay open, creative and energetic, which translates into a steady intake of one to two drinks to maintain the necessary level.
The three friends joke but Martin is intrigued, he drinks multiple glasses of wine followed by vodka. Martin’s face is wondrous when taking his first sip. There is blunt shock and perplexing disappointment, followed by a glassy stare of awe. Martin has let himself down by drinking but the effect is paradisiacal.
Martin drinks more.
The four of them binge drink, becoming loud, boisterous and loose. They continue and increase their drinking and staying permanently drunk, essentially becoming knowing, creative and powerful men, above the average in day to day life. As long as they do not become intoxicated to the point of mindlessness, the four cannot fail.
Martin becomes a facile and charismatic teacher. Tommy becomes an expert football coach.
Then Martin falls and injures his head.
This film makes an excellent contrasting companion to “Leaving Las Vegas.” As in that film, the presentation is unsparing as to the nature of alcohol and addiction and pulls no punches. Both films include much painful detail and leave little to imagination.
Provocatively however, “Another Round” is transgressive in its idea that alcohol can be a dependable and benign catalyst to creativity, and further that it can lead to a forever state of euphoria and a fountain of youth. In one scene Martin suggests that Hemingway was a great writer precisely because he drank while Grant was a superb general, due to his excesses.
Although everyone in the film is perfect and excels in their roles, an almost pyrotechnic magic emanates from Mikkelsen. The actor gives something to his performance which is like a frightful joy. His last scene in particular is as scary as it is beautiful, containing all of the creative as well as destructive energies that might be within a person who is fully intoxicated, a kinetic jester, pulsing with energy, without predictable order or symmetry—a man moving under a great sea.
There have been many films about alcoholism, the act of drinking and the urge to drink, but this one seems to encapsulate the feelings directly, its poetic promises as an elixir as well as its folly and sad outcomes. Thoughtful, engaging, weird, yet accurate and intense, this singular film is rife with meaning and intention.
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