Thomas Vinterberg is one of the most acclaimed filmmakers living today, recognised for his role in starting the Dogme 95 movement which led to the creation of masterpieces such as Festen. His latest project was a fantastic black comedy titled Another Round which received widespread critical praise and accolades.
Another Round stars the immensely talented Mads Mikkelsen as a high school teacher whose life has become completely empty. Stuck in a loveless marriage and struggling with students who do not respect him, he endures all of it one day at a time in silence until he has a cathartic experience at a friend’s birthday party.
Vinterberg presents visions of alcoholic bliss, capturing the unfettered joy of young students as well as the fleeting relief of middle-aged teachers who seek relief from the trials of daily life. The central conflict of Another Round is the classic clash of Apollonian and Dionysian philosophical frameworks but Vinterberg manages to make it compelling.
At the birthday party, one of the friends proposes that they follow the teachings of a philosopher who claimed that humans have a 0.05% blood alcohol content deficiency which leads to depression and other issues. If we tried to make up for that deficiency by drinking before important professional tasks such as exams or meetings, it would lead to an improvement in social skills as well as self-confidence.
This philosophical thesis signifies an Apollonian approach to a Dionysian life but as the four friends embark on a journey of self-medicating with alcohol, they slowly slip into the realm of Dionysus. Another Round might appear to be a glorification of alcohol at first but it is much deeper than that since it deftly delves into the discourse of mental heatlth.
In an interview, Vinterberg claimed that Another Round is much more nuanced than a moralistic take on the issue: “We wanted to create a tribute to alcohol, but it goes without saying we also wanted to paint a nuanced picture. We never wanted to be moralistic about drinking, but also we did not want to make an alcohol advertisement.”
It was also a very difficult process for Vinterberg since he lost his own daughter Ida during that time to a car accident. That’s why the film is dedicated to her memory and is also shot in her school with her classmates since she was a very vocal advocate of the project before she passed away and wanted to see what it would become.
Vinterberg highlights the dangers of alcoholism while also focusing on the socio-cultural and historical importance of alcohol, insisting that many historical innovations would not have happened if the people behind them weren’t drunk at the time. It is simply impossible to watch Another Round without wanting a drink.
Dealing with themes of grief, loss, friendship, joy, anxiety and other elements in the endless spectrum of the human condition, Another Round is an exploration of the subject of mental health but it is also a celebration. Following the arguments of the philosopher it cites, the film suggests that the key to happiness might lie somewhere in between Apollonian control and Dionysian chaos.