The 93rd Academy Awards are just around the corner, and after seeing Bong Joon Ho finally get the mainstream critical acclaim he had been deserving of for over a decade with his film “Parasite” last year, this time it is Thomas Vinterberg’s turn.
The Danish filmmaker himself was nominated for Best Director, while his movie “Another Round” (also known as “Druk” in Danish) was nominated for Best International Feature Film.
The movie follows four high school teachers, as they test the hypothesis that humans are born with a blood alcohol content of 0.05 deficiency, by drinking during school hours. In theory, this should make the four of them more relaxed and allow them to perform better in the classroom in order to motivate the chaotic Danish high school students.
The script by Vinterberg and Tobias Lindholm is full of surprising moments and turns, completely contradicting what audiences have been conditioned to expect by popular “Hollywood” narratives. While it is mostly absurd and funny (in a very European way), whenever it delves into heavy subject matter, it always treats it with the same amount of respect and care that is put into the more comedic aspects.
Vinterberg’s direction is almost voyeur-like, constantly observing from a respectful distance, which might be a decision that was influenced by the fact that his daughter died right as they started filming this film. A lot of the students in the film were her classmates, and some scenes were shot in her classrooms.
The most surprising aspect of the story is how much positive attention is given to the students’ drinking issues and mental health issues connected to school pressure. This adds additional layers and elevates the narrative to more complex heights, as it balances both sides of the Danish educational coin.
Sturla Brandth Grøvien’s cinematography is the overlooked highlight amongst the technical achievements of the film, as Grøvien has created a fantastic visual distinction between the feelings of boring sobriety, cathartic drunkenness and devastating hangovers.
Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Magnus Millang and Lars Ranthe all give equally flawless performances as the teachers, four parts of an incredible whole.
Mikkelsen, who worked with Vinterberg on the amazing 2012 picture “The Hunt” (“Jagten” in Danish), showcases once again how versatile he is as an actor when he is not being typecast as a villain. His performance in the final scene of the movie, accompanied by a musically upbeat and lyrically dark song “What A Life” by Scarlet Pleasure, is a huge reason why “Another Round” has one of the most memorable endings in recent film history.
More specifically, Mikkelsen walks a fine balance between a desperate and depressed teacher, whose life is stuck in a rut, seamlessly transforming into a highly entertaining drunkard and an engaging lecturer. This goes for the rest of the cast as well, but Mikkelsen has been given the most opportunity to showcase that journey.
Vinterberg has been creating consistently quality films for decades now, and while this is not his first nomination in the Best International Feature Film category (the previous being the aforementioned “The Hunt”), this time his film is quite a frontrunner in terms of odds for winning.
Personally, I would love to see this film win, even though a film from my own country of Bosnia and Herzegovina (“Quo Vadis, Aida?” by Jasmila Zbanic) was nominated as well. “Another Round” is the two-hour drop of positivity and unflinching creativity that is desperately needed in our currently very stale and bleak sea of reality.