Writers: Tobias Lindholm and Thomas Vinterberg
Director: Tomas Vinterberg
We always wonder what our teachers get up to in their free time but what we should be really worried about is what they are doing in school. Tobias Lindholm and Thomas Vinterberg’s new film Another Round uses the experience of four frustrated teachers to examine society’s relationship with alcohol and the point at which a bit of social lubrication becomes a life-altering problem.
Frustrated by the demands of middle age and uninspired by his job history teacher Martin is given a wake-up call when a group of students worried about their exams demand he improves his performance. Along with friends Tommy, Peter and Nikolaj who teach P.E., music and philosophy respectively, the men decide to put a blood-alcohol theory to the test.
Another Round is classic Vinterberg, looking at notions of masculinity and social responsibility in middle-aged men where primal behaviours bring long-dormant tensions to the surface. This may not be as sinister as The Hunt – adapted recently for the stage – but Lindholm and Vinterberg have much to say about the value and enjoyment of alcohol in releasing someone’s true personality.
A Danish/Swedish production, the film is divided into three experimental stages. The first is a blast as each man attempts to keep his alcohol levels at the recommended amount leading to flourishes in teaching style, greater respect from the children and even notable improvements in family life as Martin in particular releases his inhibitions and many of the troubles that have burdened him. With the teachers disguising bottles in the gym cupboard, in plastic water containers and in hip flasks there is a rousing tone as each man becomes a slightly better version of himself.
But as with most Vinterberg films, the darker consequences soon appear and as the alcohol content rises divisions emerge as over-reliance and poor behaviour start to affect their work and home life. And while watching the men break their strict original rules, concoct elaborate cocktails and enjoy a rowdy night in a local bar is entertaining, the resultant suffering that affects all four men in the final portion of the film gives it a necessary perspective.
Mads Mikkelsen is excellent as Martin, a man whose life hasn’t worked out as he had hoped and lacking any kind of drive as the film begins. It is his perspective and reawakening of Martin’s confidence and ability to enjoy his relationships that is the audience’s way into the film and Mikkelsen conveys so much of the story’s emotional impact through his performance. And anyone desperate to see the actor reveal his hidden jazz ballet skills is in for a treat.
His compatriots, Thomas Bo Larsen as the tragic Tommy whose inspiration of a young football team is one of the most heartfelt moments while Lars Ranthe as Peter and Magnus Millang as orchestrator Nikolaj create a convincing set of colleagues who find much needed support and escape from the relative pressures of their very different lives.
This film is not a warning against alcoholism but nor is an advert for abstinence. As with so many Vinterberg dramas Another Round is instead about finding the tipping point, the ideal state where personality, freedom and self-belief meet decency and moderation. And through this amusing but also interesting drama these troubled teachers gain an education of their own.
The BFI London Film Festival runs from 7 to 18 October