It all becomes clear after a few drinks. What had seemed important to us ceases to be so. We become uninhibited, braver, capable of feats we would never have attempted sober. We’re more expressive, more daring, more shameless. For a few hours, alcohol separates us from all our worries and discomforts, making us a little happier, albeit temporarily. We recover that child-like sense of self-confidence. Suddenly, we find ourselves throwing shapes, slap-bang in the very center of the dance floor, like no one were watching, laughing out loud or hugging our friends as if our life depended on it. And we feel alive. We shrug off the socially mandated garbs of solemnity and rectitude and let ourselves get carried away. We become our authentic selves.
Danish film ‘Another Round‘, by Thomas Vinterverg, winner of this year’s Oscar® for best international feature, is based on the idea that humans are born with a deficit of blood alcohol levels – a theory allegedly proposed by Norwegian psychiatrist Finn Skårderud- and as such, we are always lacking that bit of vitality. The protagonists of this story fill the respective void and emotional shortcomings with alcohol. Four teachers who decide to become the guinea pigs in their own experiment: to teach classes with a blood alcohol level of 0.05%, or the equivalent to one or two glasses of wine, in order to be more energetic and creative, just like good old Churchill and Hemingway, who both famously drank like fish back in the day. Our teachers are inspired by alcohol and the additional swigs from the flask restore the teachers’ passion for their subjects: history, music, psychology, and physical education. They recover the strength and the portion of vitality that had been lacking.
Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Magnus Millang and Lars Ranthe are fantastic, and all four were honored at the San Sebastian Festival, but the role of our ‘Hannibal’, Mikkelsen is truly outstanding here, who we see dispirited with his life and mired in the routine of a withering marriage. How his story develops is one of the film’s strong points; that dance routine, come celebration of life on the pier to the background soundtrack of Scarlet Pleasure’s ‘What a life’ will stay with you for some time. He and his companions are a reflection of the problems any man in his 50’s might be facing: in his relationship, the damn routine, and the most dangerous sensation of all; loneliness. Neither the music teacher nor the gym teacher has a partner nor offspring. They live surrounded by young people in a high school in Copenhagen, but when they get home, there is only silence, or a dog. And drinking helps them forget that part of their reality.
In addition to an original plot, ‘Another Round‘ also sparks another somewhat strange reaction from audiences. It’ll have you cracking a silly smile under the mask, and often have you laughing out loud as we witness four 50-year-old teachers who drink during working hours to become better versions of themselves, who carry bottles to school in their bags, and who even measure their blood alcohol levels to find out whether they should continue or put a stop to all this madness. The situation is surreal and it’s impossible not to laugh. However, together with the comedy, there’s underlying drama as each character carries a certain sadness we can all identify with. We laugh at their mischief, but at the same time, we understand why they drink.
We left the theater and immediately felt like going for a drink, even yearning to down a whole bottle, but also thinking: “I wish we were always like this”; always having that feeling alcohol gives most of us but without the need to drink to feel alive. I wish we lived without shame, happy and fearless. Going home and dancing, just because you feel like dancing, possessing greater enthusiasm for everything, laughing more, planning a getaway, hugging our children, celebrating life, creating. Being happy and energetic… just for the sake of it, because we’re incredibly fortunate, because we have a partner, a family, a job, and our health. Because we have ourselves. Because we are alive. And, at the end of the road, to be able to say: ‘What a life’, just like the song in the movie. We’d be freer, truer to ourselves. And things would work out better.