Thomas Vinterberg

Another Round

11/07/21

Cameo Cinema

Alcohol. It’s a curse, right? So many people depend upon it, so many have their lives completely destroyed by it – and yet it still gets bought by the gallon on a daily basis…

It would have been so easy for Thomas Vinterberg to produce a dour, finger-wagging condemnation of his chosen subject, but happily, Another Round is much more nuanced that that. This is a film that also highlights the powerful allure of alcohol, a film that makes you understand why so many of us can’t help but dance to its tune. Furthermore, it’s a story about male friendship that manages to avoid the usual clichés to deliver something genuinely heartfelt and realistic.

Martin (Mads Mikkelsen) is a history teacher at a Danish high school. He’s been in his job for years, he’s happily married to Anika (Maria Bonnevie) and he has two teenage sons. But somewhere along the way he’s lost his drive and now finds himself teaching on auto pilot, making evident mistakes as his students look on in dismay. His sons seem to be hardly aware of him and Anika, a nurse, is permanently on the night shift. In short, he’s looking for something to inspire him.

On a night out with fellow teachers, PE instructor,Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen), chemistry teacher, Nikolaj (Magnus Millang), and music teacher, Peter (Lars Ranthe), Martin picks up on something that Nikolaj mentions over a boozy dinner – a theory put forward by psychiatrist Finn Skårderud, namely that maintaining a constant blood alcohol level of 0.05% will make a person more relaxed and creative.

Martin decides to put it to the test, only to find that it actually appears to work. His pupils are reinvigorated by the ‘new’ Martin. In class he’s assured, slick, entertaining, and, as his alcohol level rises, so does his students’ enthusiasm for his teaching. It isn’t long before his three friends want to get in on the act, with sometimes hilarious – but ultimately tragic – consequences.

Another Round steadfastly refuses to be maudlin, ensuring that many of the alcohol-fuelled antics are positive ones and pointing out that the consequences of being drunk vary from person to person. Indeed, a climactic scene where Martin – a jazz ballet dancer in his teens – is inspired to strut his moves again, once he’s suitably fuelled with champagne, is a joyful, exuberant celebration of being ‘under the influence.’

Little wonder that, after viewing this intoxicating film, we headed straight for the bar to discuss it in an appropriate setting…

4.6 stars

Philip Caveney

Far From The Madding Crowd

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11/05/15

Thomas Vinterberg is a brave man – brave enough to take on Far From The Madding Crowd, in the certain knowledge that it is going to be compared to John Schlesinger’s 1967 masterpiece and inevitably found wanting. But perhaps I’m being unfair. Julie Christie, Alan Bates, Terence Stamp – these are all names that belong to another era and will mean very little to young cinema fans – and there’s no doubt that Carey Mulligan’s take on the tempestuous Bathsheba Everdean is as accomplished as you could reasonably want, even if some of her costumes – (the leather riding jerkin in particular,) don’t quite convince as being of the period.

Thomas ‘Chuckles’ Hardy is of course, a writer who excels in miserable stories and few come glummer than this tale of thwarted love and desire. Bathsheba is an orphan, who works as a farm labourer. The neighbouring farm is owned by handsome but taciturn shepherd, Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoonaerts.) Gabriel takes a shine to Bathsheba and asks her to marry him, but she’s not quite ready to settle down yet and declines his offer. Shortly afterwards, as it is wont to do in Hardy novels, disaster strikes, robbing Gabriel of his livelihood and obliging him to move away. Bathsheba does rather better for herself, inheriting a farm when her Uncle dies unexpectedly. By a twist of fate, (or massive coincidence, whichever you prefer) she finds herself as Gabriel’s employer and is subsequently lusted after, both by her rich neighbour, Mr Boldwood (Michael Sheen) and by a rakish soldier, Sergeant Troy (Tom Sturridge.) Gabriel remains in the background, her ever watchful guardian angel. But which man will she end up with? And how many gallons of tears will be shed along the way?

Vinterberg, who came up through the Danish Festen cinema movement, makes a pretty good fist of this quintessentially English tale. The rolling landscape of Dorset is handsomely portrayed, the performances are all pretty much spot on (Sheen is in particularly good form as the tragic, obsessive Boldwood) and though the Sergeant Troy ‘reveal’ is handled far better in the Schlesinger version, it’s hard to fault such a meticulously rendered production. Hardy fans will perhaps feel that this version is more about Gabriel’s story than Bathsheba’s, but that seems to me a minor quibble. This is superior filmmaking and the results are well worth catching.

4.2 stars

Philip Caveney