sun 05/12/2021

DVD/Blu-ray: Another Round | reviews, news & interviews

DVD/Blu-ray: Another Round

DVD/Blu-ray: Another Round

Thomas Vinterberg's superbly ambivalent drama about drinking in Denmark

On the lash: Mads Mikkelsen centres a disarming experiment with alcohol

Thomas Vinterberg’s Festen left me dumbstruck in the cinema in 1998 with its brilliant depiction of an incestuous, viciously glamorous family imploding over a family celebration. At the time, I hoped that my Danish mother never saw what looked, to all intents and purposes, like a home movie about her former life in Copenhagen. 

More than 20 years on, Vinterberg did it again with Another Round, a black comedy about four high-school teachers navigating their mid-life crises by drinking their way through routine lessons and boring family suppers. The result was an Oscar-winning masterpiece at times tender, horrifying and ridiculous. It’s also a pretty accurate portrait of the Danish, a very white, very economically homogenous population that has the highest rate of alcohol consumption in Europe. Nearly all my mother's family had problems with alcohol. 

The director has stuck to the principles he devised with Lars von Trier back in their Dogme 95 days – no special effects, no artificial lighting, the only music heard must be playing in the scene, not added later. This means that in one beautifully controlled scene our heroes, free of their wives and children, get plastered and dance all over the living room to the '60s funk of The Meters’ Cissy Strut; on another occasion, they discuss how drunk Schubert was when he wrote Fantasie in F Minor. The Danish pop band, Scarlet Pleasures, perform the finale song, What a Life, over an extraordinary scene where the graduating students drunkenly celebrate in Copenhagen harbour, joined by their teachers in funeral garb. The song has gone on to become a popular drinking sing-along...

StudioCanal DVDThe director abstains from moralising about the perils of alcohol, and Another Round is ambivalent, showing both its positive effects and great damage. Similar in many ways to Vinterberg's The Hunt, which portrayed a teacher struggling with an accusation of child abuse, what's really at play here is a portrait of Denmark as a nation both insular and generous, believing itself to be liberal but governed by tacit, rigid social codes.

Although this is an ensemble piece with superb, naturalistic performances from all concerned, it is Mads Mikkelsen who gets the most screen time. His history lessons go from regurgitated note reading to invigorating quizzes once he's under the influence; we watch a vein near his eye swell as this experiment with alcohol both resuscitates his life and threatens to end it. And Mikkelsen gets to remind us of his former life as a dancer and gymnast that made me long to see him paired up with Christopher Walken in a ballroom.

This Blu-ray edition captures Vinterberg's signature style – wonderful hand-held camerawork and subtle deployment of actual locations. There aren’t many extras, an interview with director and star at Cannes is low key but worth watching. 

It's an ensemble piece with superb, naturalistic performances from all concerned

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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