“The world is never as you expect.”
In the opening scene of the Danish director Thomas Vinterberg’s new film, “Another Round,” which is currently shortlisted for the Oscar Best International Feature, a group of high school students participate in what we’re told is a yearly Denmark tradition called “the lake run.” They race in pairs around a city like, stopping at every bench to chug a beer from a crate they’re carrying. If one of the participants vomits, the team is penalized two minutes onto their time. The first pair to circle the body of water wins. The key in this case is the attitude and exuberance with which the young people are participating. They’re losing control, and seem to be enjoying it.
It is soon contrasted with a scene between teachers Martin, Tommy, Peter and Nikolaj who are colleagues and have gathered at a fancy restaurant to celebrate Nikolaj’s 40th birthday. They’re all middle age. The friends are having drinks, but Martin is abstaining because he has to drive home. He’s been having issues with the family and at work. He’s stuck in a rut. The weightlessness of youth, and its fascinations have dissipated. His friends tell him that he’s lacking self-confidence and joy. They argue that he has two hours before getting behind the wheel, he should have some vodka to warm himself up. Martin looks around his group and he realizes that they’re just in the same position he’s in. They’re wallowing in mediocrity, and locked in the monotony of their routine. They’re not soaring anymore. Martin partakes in a drink – grabbing a glistening and frosted glass of the alcohol. He takes it, and the cheerful room grows kindlier. The camera is on a close up of his face as he takes it all in and of his friends laughing and having a good time. All of a sudden, he starts tuning into the acapella group that has been all along singing in the room next door. We literally see the elixir working his way through him. His eyes well up with emotion.
What ensues could be seen as provocative, or could have easily been the plot for another “The Hangover” movie. “There’s this Norwegian philosopher and psychiatrist, Finn Skarderud,” says Nikolaj. “He claims humans are born with a blood alcohol content that’s 0.05% too low. 1-2 glasses a wine and you should maintain at that level.” Nikolaj, Peter, Tommy and Martin agree to start a scientific experiment – drinking enough alcohol to stay at that level while keeping track of the evidence of “verbal, motor, and pyscho-rethorical effects.” Martin suggests following Ernest Hemingway’s rule of only drinking during business hours or on the weekends – so that means no consumption after 8pm.
It all goes well at first. “I haven’t felt this good in ages,” shares Martin. Prior to class, he sneaks into the bathroom to drink some Smirnoff, and then he’s able to ignite his students with passion-filled lectures about history. Gone is his fear of having to face young skeptical minds as well as their constant questioning, or worries of how to deliver old and tried material. He also surprises his wife Anika, who had alluded that their life was boring, with renewed intensity in their lovemaking. Tommy, who coaches the soccer team, is able to inspire even the feeblest and most self-doubting member of the group to deliver their best. Nikolaj is able to instill self-assurance to a mediocre student who is facing the dreaded college testing (Kierkegaard?!!!) and musical director Peter gets his choir to sing rhapsodically. Their minds start to open up, becoming more receptive to other people and become more creative. As with any movie about experimentation, they keep having to push the envelope to terrible and tragic results. What’s refreshing about Vinterberg is that he refuses to celebrate nor refute their behavior. It is a serious topic but it’s approached in a both humorous and serious way. This is one helluva spellbinding film, and it rapidly went to the top of my list of 2020 films. It is a paradoxical observation of life, and how we try to make amends with it. It’s not about drinking, but about living and how we choose to embrace it. I should point out that Vinterberg lost his daughter a few days into filming, and this loss inspired the director to make the film life affirming.
Vinterberg along with Lars Von Trier co-founded the Dogme 95 film movement in the 90s to purify cinema. They came up with a set of rules to create films that encouraged story, acting, and theme, and diminish the use of elaborate special effects or technology. They emphasized available lighting, the use of handheld cameras and recorded music. In 1998, Vintenberg made “Festen” or “The Celebration.” In “Another Round,” Vinterberg does away with the strict rules but retains some of them, like shooting with natural lighting and the handheld camera. The cinematographer Sturla Brandth Grøvlen seems to be picking up the vibrations from the actors, weaving in and out of their interactions. It gently sways and then it swaggers, mimicking their drunken fashion. It follows the alcohol curve development. Color wise it moves from somber to warmth.
Mads Mikkelsen, as Martin, delivers one of the most impressive turns of his career. He previously delivered a homerun as the lead in Vintenberg’s Oscar nominated Best Foreign Film “The Hunt” (2012). This is something deeper and richer. Mikkelsen was a former dancer, and in the last moments of the film he delivers what has got to be one of the richest moments in cinema of 2020. We knew that in this story there was going to be tragedy, but little did we know that there was going to be a flight!
Martin: “Well, I got a little drunk yesterday.”
Jonas: “But, Dad, you’ve been drunk for a while, haven’t you?”
Available to rent on Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, DIRECTV, Apple TV and FandangoNOW.
Written by Thomas Vinterberg and Tobias Lindholm
Directed by Thomas Vinterberg
Starring Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Magnus Millang, and Lars Ranthe
Bringing “Another Round” to the Screen
In early 2019, more than 20 years after launching the Dogme ’95 movement with “The Celebration,” Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg was on the verge of making his most personal movie. It ended up at the center of his greatest tragedy. “Another Round” would reunite him with Mads Mikkelsen, following their acclaimed collaboration on “The Hunt,” and serve as the debut performance of Vinterberg’s daughter, Ida. Mikkelsen was playing a disillusioned high school history teacher who confronts a midlife crisis through day drinking, and Ida Vinterberg would play his concerned teen. Vinterberg planned to shoot the movie at Ida’s high school and populate the ensemble with her friends, envisioning a unique seriocomic generational conflict grounded in the naturalism of its backdrop. Ida was on a trip to Africa when he sent her the script. “She shared her unconditional love of this project,” Vinterberg recalled in a recent interview over Zoom. “She felt seen by it.” Production started in early May of that year, before Ida’s return. Four days into the shoot, Vinterberg received a call from Belgium. His ex-wife, Maria Walbom, had been driving Ida to Paris to rendezvous with some friends and there had been an accident. Another driver, distracted by his phone, slammed into them on the highway. Maria would recover from her injuries; Ida died instantly. She was 19. The production went on immediate hiatus. “My life was destroyed,” Vinterberg said, in a careful, matter-of-fact tone. “We were very close. She always told me the honest truth.” In the midst of the trauma, he said, he imagined how she would feel about the impact of her death on the project. “It did not make sense to continue, but it did not make sense not to continue,” he said. “She would’ve hated that. So we decided to make the movie for her. That was the only way we could do this.” After Ida’s funeral, Vinterberg clawed his way back to the movie in fits and starts, with his co-writer, Tobias Lindholm, handling the shoot on days when Vinterberg felt overcome by grief. The result is a touching black comedy about navigating life’s messiest curveballs by matching its tempo and stumbling through the darkness.
Mikkelsen delivers one of his most satisfying performances in years as Martin, who joins forces with his equally downtrodden old pals to enliven their daytime routines with booze, as they suffer a range of personal and professional consequences. Despite some of its bleak turns, the movie stands out as Vinterberg’s gentlest work, and offers a warm and poignant window into resilience in hard times. The movie scored a slot in the Official 2020 Cannes Selection and became the Danish Oscar submission, and stands a good shot at a nomination; Mikkelsen could even be a dark horse in the Best Actor race. In the final version, the actor’s character has two sons, but Ida’s legacy hangs over it. Vinterberg included a dedication to her in the credits. “She is all over this movie for me,” Vinterberg said. “She’s in every minute.” But even after Vinterberg decided to resume the shoot, Mikkelsen said, the entire endeavor was left in a state of uncertainty. “The actors had a meeting and talked about how to proceed or react,” he said in a separate interview by phone. “Sometimes people laugh. Was it inappropriate if somebody laughed?” They concluded that they would become their director’s support system. “We decided we would just try to do it exactly the way he wanted to do it,” Mikkelsen said. “That’s what he needed.” Some of the more playful sequences in the movie find the men joshing around as they gradually become more intoxicated. Despite the underlying sadness driving these scenes, they maintain a playful quality that lightened up the mood on set. “If you ever laugh at these four guys in the movie,” Vinterberg said, “it’s because they tried so hard everyday to make their director laugh.” For Mikkelsen, the unprecedented circumstances took “Another Round” to new heights. “It was always a film about embracing life, but because of this tragedy, it became a film about embracing life on a magnitude we did not anticipate,” he said. “As tragic as it is, the film has become much more beautiful as a result. Nobody wants to pay that price ever again, but that’s what happened.” (indiewire.com)
Mads Mikkelsen on “Another Round” and Playing the Role of Martin
Mikkelsen had starred in Vinterberg’s 2012 Oscar nominee “The Hunt,” and was anxious to work with the director again. And even in its original form, he found it intriguing to explore the theory put forth by Norwegian psychiatrist Finn Skarderud, who posited that humans are born with a 0.05 blood alcohol deficit, and that we’d all be at our best if we maintained a buzz all day long. “It was an interesting premise to dive into the idea of what positive stuff comes out of alcohol,” Mikkelsen said. “We know the danger, we know the negative stuff, we’ve done tons of films about that. But what about those two glasses of wine — where the conversation lifts, where you become creative, where you dare do things you never did before? Alcohol has been around for 6,000 or 7,000 years, and people have used it in a variety of ways, often to get closer to the spirits of the gods, but also to become creative.” But Vinterberg and Lindholm realized that a film that purely celebrated alcohol, which was the original idea, wouldn’t have been much more than a provocation. “I probably would have gotten away with that in my 20s,” said Vinterberg, who is 51. “It didn’t feel sufficient or whole enough now.” The tone also took a turn as soon as production began. Only a few days into the shoot, Vinterberg’s 19-year-old daughter, who was to have played Mikkelsen’s daughter, was killed in a car accident. After a break, Vinterberg decided he needed to finish the film.
“Over time, it became more and more important to me to elevate the project from just being a movie about drinking to a movie about life,” he said. “And when my daughter died, it became not only an ambition but a necessity to continue to elevate this to be a life-affirming film.” Mikkelsen added, “We went forward, but the film took a turn without us putting any words to it.” For Mikkelsen’s character, Martin, that came to mean dealing with loss and reclaiming family partly because of alcohol and partly in spite of it. “The Martin we see in a variety of scenes when he’s drinking is probably the Martin that he was when he was 22,” he said. “But for some reason, he finds himself at the age of 54 standing on the platform and watching the train going by tremendously fast. “A lot of people find themselves in situations like that — not necessarily me, since I’ve obviously done a lot of funny and interesting things in the last 25 years. But I recognize the idea. And for him, it’s all about not regretting what the past brought him, but trying to embrace the present and recharge his batteries and figure out why he loves his family and why he loves his job.” (thewrap.com)
About Cinematographer Sturla Brandth Grøvlen
Born 11th of March 1980 in Trondheim, Norway. Lives and works in Copenhagen, Denmark. Graduated from Bergen Academy of the Arts in 2006 and The National Film School of Denmark in 2011. Notably known for the single-take thriller “Victoria” from 2015 which he received the Silver Bear for artistic contribution at the 65th Berlinale. The same year he received the Silver Frog at Camerimage for “Rams,” a film that is stylistically opposite from “Victoria,” and shows his range of adapting to story and character. His intuitive and intimate style has attracted directors as Benh Zeitlin (“Wendy”), Josephine Decker (“Shirely”) and Michael Noer (“Before the Frost”). Just released world-wide is “Another Round” directed by Thomas Vinterberg, and in primo 2021 “The Innocents” directed by Eskil Vogt, will be released. (sturla.dk)
About Co-Screenwriter Tobias Lindholm
Tobias Lindholm born in 1977, is an award-winning Danish director and screenwriter. He studied at the National Film School of Denmark and has written several episodes for the TV series “The Summers” and the international hit TV series and BAFTA winner Borgen. Lindholm co-wrote Vinterberg’s “Submarino” and “The Hunt.” “R,” a collaboration between Lindholm and Michael Noer, marks his debut as feature film director. “A War” was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. (cineuropa.org) Lindholm’s other works include “Borgen” (2010-2011), “A Hijacking” (2012), “The Hour of the Lynx” (2013), “The Arms Drop” (2014), “April 9th” (2015), “The Commune” (2016), “Mindhunter” (2017), “Follow the Money” (2016-2019), “The Investigation” (2019) and most recently “A Taste of Hunger” in 2021.
About Director and Co-Screenwriter Thomas Vinterberg
Celebrated director Thomas Vinterberg graduated from the Danish Film School in 1993. His graduation film “Last Round” was nominated for a student Oscar®. “The Boy Who Walked Backwards” (1995) won among others, at Clermont-Ferrand. In 1996 Vinterberg directed his first feature “The Biggest Heroes,” and won national awards. In 1995 Lars von Trier and him wrote the DOGME 95 manifesto. Vinterberg’s DOGME film, “Festen” (“The Celebration” -1998) was the first film of the movement. It received international awards including the Jury prize at Cannes and the Fassbinder Award at the European Film Awards. Vinterberg has directed two English-language films, “It´s All About Love” (2003), with Joaquin Phoenix, Claire Danes and Sean Penn, and “Dear Wendy” (2005) starring Jamie Bell and written by Lars von Trier. He returned to the Danish language with the comedy, “When A Man Comes Home” (2007), followed by “Submarino,” in competition at the Berlinale 2010. Submarino received many national awards. Thomas Vinterberg has also written and directed plays for the national stage in Austria, now playing around Europe. He has also directed music videos for Blur and Metallica. (festival-cannes.com) Vinterberg’s other works include “The Hunt” (2012), “Far from the Madding Crowd” (2015), “The Commune” (2016), “The Command” (2018) and most recently “Another Round” in 2020.