Not rated, but it 100% would be rated R given half-a-chance. It's all about drinking too much for the entire film. Some of it is glorifying alcohol (which I'm sure some people would fight me on) and the other scenes show the dark underbelly of alcoholism. There's language and sexual content. One of the characters is having an affair. The movie also regularly dances around suicide. Also, there's some wildly inappropriate interactions with students.
DIRECTOR: Thomas Vinterberg
So I find myself writing less on vacation. That's LIKE a vacation from writing, right? At one point, when I was considering stopping this blog, I made the deal that it was about quality, not quantity. As part of that, I started to write less and found myself happier. But I'm back to writing these tanks that often get rambly. Basically, I'm stating that I'm going to forgive myself whatever happens. Sure, my readership is in the toilet. (My numbers are hilariously low right now. It's almost like I'm writing about a lot of movies that people hadn't even heard of.)
When my wife saw the trailer for this movie (she's always on the quest for the Academy Awards with me), she thought it looked way too depressing. Me? I'm a big fan of movies like this. It's a funnier The Lost Weekend. I've never been one to drink. I actively dislike drinking most of the time. The only time that I ever partake is on fancy dates where they have very impressive drinks. In my head, it is the equivalent of ordering a meal that displays the talents of the chef. And even then, I drink very little if for cost alone. Vinterberg's world of Another Round is a culture where alcohol is part of life for both youth an adults. The Danes live a drastically different life from me. Drinking at work is still frowned upon, but the idea of students thinking of their teachers as people who drink isn't exactly that bizarre.
Starting there alone, this movie becomes almost a nature documentary. I get to watch this whole different world from the safety of my home, imagining what my life would be like if alcohol was just part of the norm. And for many Americans, it totally is. But there's this very specific setting that Another Round lives in. I can't help but bring my own background to bear when writing about a film like this.
The central conceit is really very interesting. Vinterberg is aware how absurd the conceit is. The premise is that there is a philosopher that believes that the human blood alcohol level is too low for anyone's health or productivity. To counteract this burden, the protagonists choose to drink to maintain a peak blood alcohol level. Like I stated, I'm sure that Vinterberg probably doesn't wholly subscribe to this belief. I can see the Fight Club crowd intentionally misunderstanding the message that Vinterberg is throwing down. But I can see why more in the case of Another Round than with Fight Club. With Fight Club, David Fincher allows the audience to see the consequences of a life built around the philosophy and rules of Tyler Durden. It becomes the most toxic lifestyle, ultimately leading to this crisis that nearly kills the unnamed protagonist. With Another Round, Vinterberg takes Martin to both polar extremes. Martin leads both is best and worst life as a drunk. When Martin drinks according to the initial experiment, his life actually seems pretty rad. He pulls himself out of his mid-life depression and teaches like a man on fire. He reaches these kids and becomes a favorite teacher. He's reminded of his passion for his studies. He becomes a better husband and father. Vinterberg makes lo-key alcoholism seem rad. It's only when Martin goes past the initial edict of drinking that his life falls apart.
All this brings me to the very confusing conclusion. Vinterberg brings Martin to a place where many characters aren't allowed to go. Martin borderline burns his life to the ground with his drinking. He discovers that his wife has been cheating on him. He goes from being laser focused to just a sloppy drunk. His friend commits suicide. In a moment of sobriety, Martin seems to discover the toxicity that enters his life. But his friends don't equate their drinking to the suicide of a friend. They continue drinking. Vinterberg makes these guys look fairly pathetic in this moment and the message seems to be that people have a hard time really seeing their own vice. But it is in this moment that Martin is given another chance. His wife is willing to give the marriage another chance. His students think of him as cool. They have all done well in school. So that ending comes across as both positive and wildly depressing. All of the famous shots of this movie come from the absolute end of the film, by-the-way. Mads Mikkelsen dancing in a circle with a champagne bottle? That's the conclusion of the film. And it makes drinking look really sexy. Despite the fact that Martin ruined his life through booze, it makes me want to drink and I hate drinking.
And then there's the part with the nervous student. This is one of my students, by the way. This is the kid who is so darned talented and so darned smart that his own success seems unsustainable. There's this really dark moment where the teacher replaces his water bottle with a bottle of vodka. It isn't secret to the kid. That was the plan. Knowing that the kid had nerves, the plan was to sneak some booze to take the edge off of the presentation that he was giving for his final exam. The kid goes from not being able to say a word about Kierkegaard to being able to sound quite knowledgeable about the topic. Vinterberg makes this entire moment seem gross, but ultimately a logical success story. I wonder about this moment. It has me wondering what is going on with Vinterberg and this choice. Me, sitting there enjoying the safety of my own home, scarfing down popcorn and enjoying the high horse that I constantly ride, sees this kid as the most intense alcoholic that ever existed. From his perspective, he isn't functional unless he has booze in his system. He has equated alcohol with freedom. Yes, the booze helped him pass the test. But he also has practically self-medicated himself into a rudimentary task. That psychosis of educational superiority isn't being dealt with; it is being suppressed by alcohol. When he gets older, he'll need more and more just to get through the day. And yet, as an audience, we applaud when he finds himself successful in his final exam. Maybe it is the American in me, but I seriously thought that scene was going to end with with the teacher getting caught providing alcohol to a kid during a test, not with a success story.
When I watched this, I was shocked by how muddied the water was with the message. After all, this is a condemnation of alcoholism, but it isn't one way or the other. But that's what kind of makes this movie somewhat special. It's about complications. It's not an after school special. It's messy and rough. Yeah, these are characters who should probably be getting some therapy. But it also is interesting to see these characters succeed in moments that seem overwhelming for them. Again, I'm not a drinker, so I have the benefit of never having to worry about being that way.
Because I am the greatest man alive, I shouted from my very high horse.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.