Very few nations match the British reputation for boozing but I’d say the Scandinavians can run us close. As the old joke goes, there’s not much else to do on those long winter nights…
And although it was French poet Baudelaire who famously decried: “You should always be drunk,” I don’t think even he meant you should do it in school before taking the morning register.
In Oscar-winning Danish comedy Another Round, however, four bored, suburban high school teachers experiment with drinking at work, every day, just a nip, before leaving home, then before class, in exams, in the gym and the store cupboard.
When Mads Mikkelsen’s Martin and his middle-aged staff room chums (played by Thomas Bo Larsen, Magnus Milland and Lars Ranthe) read of a Norwegian psychiatrist’s theory about the performance-enhancing possibilities of having a tiny percentage of alcohol permanently buzzing around the bloodstream (0.05% if you’re curious), they take to the idea with gusto.
Certainly, it makes the classrooms more lively. Martin’s history teaching suddenly engages the students like never before, especially when extolling the virtues of Winston Churchill’s drinking; the philosophy master finds a new take on Kierkegaard (not an easy one to say when you’re tipsy, in any language); the previously dull football coach, well, he’s practically the new Brian Clough in more ways than one.
All goes swimmingly and even inspirationally until their new uninhibited state prompts them to up the micro-doses of alcohol. You know how it is – and that’s why the Danish director of 90s classic Festen, Thomas Vinterberg, calls this one Another Round. (In French, it’s just called Drunk; in Denmark, it’s Druk).
Watching former Bond villain and Hannibal star Mikkelsen is always a fascinating, knife-edge pleasure and here he wrings every drop from a comic premise that spills into a tragedy of male mid-life crisis, with a fatal fall-out involving jobs and families, particularly the excellent Swedish actress Marie Bonnevie in the role of Martin’s beautiful, long-suffering wife. I did have a bit of trouble believing that the extraordinary-looking Mikkelsen could ever be feeling drudgery – he doesn’t look everyman enough, just too handsome, too cool. And there’s a sense of too much Danish horsing around and drunk acting – like a pissed bloke in the pub, it loses a sense of momentum and purpose and I’m not sure of its time scale.
That said, it’s got a good sense of dark and light and very Danish, even-handed approach to any sort of moralising. I’m sure that’ll be sorted out/ruined by the upcoming Hollywood remake that Leonardo DiCaprio already has in the pipeline but this lively and poignant Danish original slips down a treat and will remain, like the old lager commercial used to say: the best in the world. Probably.
(Out July 2)