Another Round (Druk in its original Danish) is about taking a leap of faith. It is also a film about four depressed middle-aged teachers getting perpetually drunk and consequently causing their personal lives to implode. Despite this bleak premise, it is simultaneously one of the most entertaining films of the 21st century, as well as one of the most poignant. Despite having won, and been nominated for, a litany of awards, including the academy award for Best International Feature Film, few will argue it to be the best or most influential foreign film. Such a prestigious title could undoubtedly go to a dozen other films such as Parasite, Seven Samurai, Burning, Drive My Car, Bicycle Thieves, Le Samouraï, the list goes on. Yet it is my favourite, having become increasingly dear to me as I’ve grown older. That may seem an odd thing to say about a film that released in 2020, but the film’s theme of anxiety has only become more impactful as I’ve transitioned into adulthood. Beyond it’s narrative level, director Thomas Vinterberg has crafted a film that is not just well written but also beautifully shot and edited too, boasting stellar performances from the ensemble cast (led by a typically fantastic Mads Mikkelsen).
Despite this bleak premise, it is simultaneously one of the most entertaining films of the 21st century, as well as one of the most poignant.
From its opening Kierkegaard quote, Another Round makes its central theme clear. At its core the film is a meditation on anxiety. This is perhaps most obvious in its’ four central characters. By the time we meet them, our leads’ lives have passed them by. Mikkelsen’s character seems passive to the extreme, displaying an entirely convincing apathy towards his students that is almost alien. The charismatic charmer others refer to throughout the narrative is nowhere to be seen in the beginning of the film. All four characters seem paralysed by midlife ennui, too afraid to make a radical shift in their mundane lives. This changes when they start maintaining a certain blood-alcohol level as part of a ‘social experiment’. They become more outgoing, initially soaring to new achievements and they find a new passion for teaching, the cinematography itself seems to become livelier once they start drinking.
At its core the film is a meditation on anxiety. This is perhaps most obvious in its’ four central characters. By the time we meet them, our leads’ lives have passed them by.
This thematic thread is paralleled in the lives of the students they teach, all of whom are approaching graduation. They embody a very different kind of anxiety, arguably one which is far greater. An abyss of potential lies ahead of them, and all the possibilities they are presented with seem crippling. However, just as alcohol enables academic success for both the teachers and students it also causes great personal issues and tragedy. Drunkenness allegorically shows us the results of taking charge of our anxiety, doing things we otherwise wouldn’t whether for better or for worse. While the film is ostensibly ‘about’ alcohol, it is perhaps more so about how the embracing of the unknown can be both enabling and destructive.
Ultimately, this article has focused primarily on Another Round’s themes. Not only is its story about alcohol consumption, which many of us at university engage in regularly, surprisingly affecting but its subtextual message of taking a leap of faith and accepting the consequences of one’s actions is one we could all learn from, regardless of age. With a strong narrative, impressive technical features, and a knockout ending that could be interpreted in drastically different ways yet remains truly fulfilling no matter the conclusion one comes to, Another Round deserves its spot in the pantheon of not just among the great foreign films but the all-time great films.