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Another Round is a Danish award-winning film released in 2020 about drinking, middle age, and confronting your flaws. Four teachers, disenchanted with their professional and personal lives, embark on an experiment to test the theory that humans are born with a blood alcohol content that is 0.05% too low. By maintaining this level of BAC, a person’s quality of life should supposedly improve.
This is a very clever film. Towards the end, Martin accepts a can of beer at a graduation party and begins an improvised solo Jazz routine, cheered on by his students. The link between alcohol and fun is natural to the point of being hard-wired into our social psyche. But the can of beer is now tainted with foreboding. In it, we see all of the drinks he has picked up throughout the film, and all of their consequences. It is a joyful scene, and you want to accept the relief that the ending potentially offers. But there is a sourness beneath the elation.
Drinking can feel omnipresent and nearly universal as a social practice, to the extent that I couldn’t help but project onto the film my own experiences. I began the film with a gin and tonic, drinking it quickly as the men rediscovered their lives with the rosy tint of inebriation. But by the time the experiment started catching up with them, I didn’t feel like making another drink.
Alcohol is as much a device as a theme. The clink of an ice cube and the rising numbers on a breathalyzer drive the tension and momentum of the film. Drinking and sobriety, excitement and consequences form natural cadences throughout the film, like the night out, hangover, and readiness to go again. You are swept into the spirit of inebriation, but aren’t blessed with the same disinhibition. It’s weird to watch other people getting drunk, starkly aware of your own soberness. The film is steeped in a comedy that is pure and painful in turns.
So is there a message? Drink? Don’t drink? Another Round keeps a pragmatic distance from any conclusions. Obviously, the constant-inebriation experiment is not sustainable; it has to stop, or will never stop. Or is the elusive sustained moderation possible? The premise of the film sounds almost slapstick: Drunk Men Try To Act Normally. But Martin’s realisation of his own timidity and dullness is quietly gut-wrenching. You cannot help but egg him on as passion and confidence return to a face that was previously inscrutable and unmoving. The temptation is obvious: booze provides the magical ingredient in a life that has slipped from Martin’s control. I am reminded of the Pardoner in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales as he warns against the drinking of wine in one line, and in the next, boasts that his success gains him access to a drink and a woman in every tavern. But the film uses this duality seriously as much as it does playfully. If there is a resolution, or a message, it’s that perfection doesn’t exist. Allow yourself to be wrong, and then you might do something right.
Image: kaicho20 via Pixabay