There are some films which nestle comfortably in your heart as soon as the end credits start rolling and help you question your perceptions and outlook. Another Round aka Druk (2020), directed by Thomas Vinterberg, co-written with T. Lindholm, and starring Mads Mikkelsen, is one such slice of life which pours into you a warm chalice-full of spirit, hope and letting go. From a comedy drama to a weighty reflection of life, Druk manages to weave together the episodes into a refreshing and energising chain of revelations and events, giving hope to heady yet blank screens of individual discovery – of catharsis and life’s unfettered glory.
The narrative follows four friends, all middle-aged high school teachers stuck in a rut. The background score and poignant cinematography are successful in constructing frames that ooze a sense of gloom and existential monotony from the very start of the film. At a dinner to celebrate a 40th birthday of one in the group, they start discussing scientific and philosophical notions around the practice of alcohol consumption and their mundane mid-life crises.
Mikkelsen’s character, Martin, captured in consistent reticent and deadpan deliveries till then, suddenly breaks down while having a drink, probably after a long time. He seems to have lost all his passion in teaching History, and is stuck in a recurrent loop, alienated from his family and fails to recognise his current self. A once vivacious, youthful PhD aspirant and member of a jazz ballet, he finds he can’t recognise himself and feels trapped in an insipid snare of passivity.
One of the friends, who teaches Philosophy, remarks how humans are born with a low alcohol content in their blood maintaining a meagre 0.05% BAC, and that consumption of a stable amount on a regular note during work hours might enhance their performances and moods as individuals. The four shake hands on a social experiment which they would undertake and promise to frame a paper factoring in the rational trends and observations.
With the start of this experiment, Vinterberg brilliantly captures the transitions in the lives of the four – Martin is soon seen engaging with a class like never before. The storytelling is laden with unique observatory skills and layered meditative insights into the lives of the four friends desperately searching for their buzz.
Mikkelsen’s minimalistic perfection strike a perfect balance in its portrayal of the elated and slightly tipsy Martin and the class’ reaction and reception to the energy, in a warm episode of rediscovery. Similarly, the others enjoy similar successes in their respective classes and their rapture and elation hits our cinematic sweet spots.
However, this experiment soon gives way to juvenile flippancy and leads to a spate of unfortunate events. Martin finds himself lost and ends up pushing his family away, with his wife leaving him after a shameful drunken episode. The group starts losing control over their social experiment. Martin visits a lonely Tommy, the sports coach, to help him with his life. The pure essence of their bond is reflected when Tommy, despite his loneliness, reminds Martin of his love for his wife and wants to watch him release himself and dance again. Loss and recuperation steer the narrative to a sea of reflection and deliverance.
Another Round transcends the realm of comedy when it hits the subtle notes of individual shades and the most fragile of emotions. An anxious student is seen being able to speak on the Kierkegaardian theories of an individual, his anxiety and fallibility, in what stands to be a symbolic scene dealing with the ideas which govern the central idea of the film and broadly, human existence, when one of them help him with a drink. The students graduate with happy faces while the men stand there, inhaling a liberating sense of satisfaction.
The mood is sharply morphed when the news of Tommy’s sudden passing arrives and the friends find themselves at his funeral service. The following sequences elevate the film to a converging point of acceptance and liberation coupled with a stringing sense of loss.
The friends, attending lunch in honour of Tommy, find new graduates arriving in flocks. The students give their beloved teachers an unexpected hearty celebration with one of them tearing up with joy on being lifted with jubilation. Martin receives a text where his wife confesses that she still misses him and roots for them, just like Tommy did. The elation seems so comforting and yet unreal, one cannot help but smile.
The final sequence follows Martin with a beer can, breaking into an emancipating dance with Scarlet Pleasure’s ‘What a Life’ playing in the background against the backdrop of a Danish port and the graduates enjoying, dancing and drinking their hearts out. The film locks its final frame on a reborn Martin taking a leap of freedom.
What makes this film such a fine ode to hope, life and its spirit is its balance- a harmony of variegated experiences. The final two minutes of Mikkelsen dancing somehow comes across as a dose of definite redemption for 2020. Vinterberg’s direction, holds the entire narrative together, with Mikkelsen’s compelling portrayal of the realities. The film comes as an ode to Ida, Vinterberg’s daughter whom he lost in 2019 and wanted to film this as a moving and a dedicated celebration of life at her school.
With evocative cinematography and music, Another Round starts as a film, and culminates in an experience; an ode to the spirit of life and rediscovery of the self. When the film draws to a close, you just want to live, run free and utter a cathartic cry. Such is the infectious spirit – an unapologetic final song of hope in a year and world riddled with despair.
Agnidev Banerjee is an undergrad student studying English Literature at St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata. He is interested in music, film, sports and inertia.
Featured image credit: Zentropa Film i Väst Topkapi Films