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Friday December 2nd

Oscars Spotlight Column: ‘Another Round’ is intoxicatingly good

Mads Mikkelsen in a scene from "Another Round". Photo courtesy of Henrik Ohsten.
Buy Photos Mads Mikkelsen in a scene from "Another Round". Photo courtesy of Henrik Ohsten.

Now that the alternately hilarious and tragic “Another Round" has been nominated for two Academy Awards, American audiences should appreciate this Danish hidden gem.

The film, starring Mads Mikkelsen, is about a group of four middle-aged teachers who experiment with keeping their blood alcohol content at a constant level for an extended period of time.

Thomas Vinterberg, who was nominated for Best Director at the Oscars, carries the film with an exceptional level of confidence. Each scene feels personal and inspired in its production, and each aspect of the style is clearly defined and used to its full potential. Vinterberg strikes a clean balance in his direction between slick pacing and grounded moments. Too often in cinema, personal stories and stylized direction seem at odds with each other, but “Another Round” is a perfect example of how they can coexist.

The film contains a wide range of tones, from madcap humor to sobering drama. The transitions between these tones are often rapid but never jarring. Vinterberg deftly moves the audience between moods without letting any change feel unearned. Because of how drastically the tone changes during the film, the smooth transition is particularly commendable.

Vinterberg also helps the film move at a steady and watchable pace. Throughout its runtime, the scenes are consistently engrossing. There are no moments of filler, with every scene serving a narrative or thematic purpose. 

Aside from overarching aspects of the film, the scene-by-scene directing is also superb. The directorial choices that go into each scene all feel purposeful and logical. 

The opening scene, for example, contains numerous moving parts. Depicting a teen party, there were many people in the frame at any given time, and each of their movements and actions contributed to the intention of the shot; regardless of whether a character was dancing or not, all of it seemed expertly choreographed.

The film is often comical, with the screenplay exploring the humorous aspects of the premise to great effect. The combination of sharp writing and clean directing results in numerous amusing moments. As the story becomes more serious, Vinterberg doesn’t miss a beat, keeping the style intact without sacrificing any poignant drama.

While much of the credit for this film’s success is due to Vinterberg, the excellent screenplay was co-written by Tobias Lindholm. The duo smoothly integrates multiple thematic topics into the story, the most prevalent of which is the mundanity of aging. 

Through the screenplay, “Another Round” uses an outrageous and over-the-top premise to scrutinize the personal effects of aging. This theme and others are explored in thoughtful and extensive ways. Despite the full treatment of these topics, the screenplay never allows the themes to overshadow the story, letting the main narrative consistently remain at the forefront.

Mikkelsen, who plays a downtrodden history teacher who struggles to connect with his family, stands out among a great cast. The film explores his character more than any other, and he handles the leading role with poise and range. 

He uses facial expressions to terrific effect, often conveying more through his physical actions than his words. Of course, Mikkelsen’s line reading is strong as well, working realism and passion into his character.

Sturla Brandth Grøvlen’s cinematography fits the story well, making almost exclusive use of handheld cameras, adding a personal touch to the look of the film. Despite the exaggerated situation, the realistic visual style helps to create an observational and direct atmosphere in many scenes. 

In addition to camera work, the lighting throughout the runtime emphasizes the color palette to make even the simplest shots visually appealing. Janus Billeskov Jansen and Anne Østerud’s outstanding film editing assists in both the visual experience and pacing of the movie.

All of these technical and artistic factors combine to create the unique and memorable experience of “Another Round”. The story is entertaining to watch and thoughtful in its presentation of themes. From start to finish, Thomas Vinterberg’s voice is apparent in the film. It’s a voice that informs every aspect of production, and one that is quite worth listening to. (9/10)

“Another Round” is now streaming on Hulu, and is nominated for Best Director and Best International Feature Film at the Academy Awards.


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