Synopsis: Four teachers experiment with day drinking. (Streaming on Hulu & Amazon Prime.)
Druk is Danish for binge drinking (alcohol). Druk or by its English title, Another Round, explores drinking culture in Denmark. The movie centers on four male high school ( ie., gymnasium in Denmark) teachers who determine to study the effects of day drinking on their social and professional lives. Hmm, seems like a good way to lose a job.
The always intriguing Mads Mikkelsen is Martin, a history teacher. His colleague friends are: Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen) a senior-aged physical education teacher, Nikolaj (Magnus Millang), a bearded guy with a wife and young kids, and Peter (Lars Ranthe) a single music teacher. They all seem burnt-out on teaching and their teen students are openly bored in class.
In between classes the kids are made to sing songs about how beautiful Denmark is and how much they love their land. In fact, Danes love their country so much that they have two national anthems. One of them is “Kong Christian” which is not, as you might expect, about a giant ape named Christian. Rather, it’s about some naval battle with their perennial rival Sweden wherein King/Kong Christian (a human) gamely swings his sword to and fro even though he is gravely injured.
The other national anthem “In Der er et yndigt land”/”There is a Lovely Country.” The lyrics wax rhapsodic about Denmark’s blue sea and beech trees. The song also attests to the honor of their citizens “who do the best they can.” And if you can’t respect that, you can bugger off back to Sweden.
Apparently when Danes aren’t singing, they are drinking. Danish teens drink more than other teens in Europe which is good practice for all of the drinking that they will do as adults.
Early on in the movie, Mads meets his three teacher friends at a restaurant to celebrate Nikolaj’s 40th birthday. I thought it was weird that the dinner courses were just smidges of caviar, served with copious amounts of alcohol. The men quickly become melancholy Danes, wingeing about their midlife crises and dull lives. They chuckle about Mads’ past full of PhD aspirations and his study of jazz ballet dancing. Sadly, Mads demurs when asked to dance at the restaurant. Dammit!
One of Mads’ pals brings up a theory advanced by psychiatrist–and apparent troublemaker– Finn Skårderud who postulates that people would do well to keep a blood alcohol level of 0.05%. He wrongly says that’s what our blood levels are when we are born. Huh? Drunk babies? Skårderud sounds under the influence to me.
Anyway, they decide to conduct a study to determine drinking’s effect on their social and professional performances, pledging to drink enough during the workday to maintain a 0.05% blood alcohol content. (Eg., in the U.S., 0.08% is legally intoxicated. A BAC above 0.40% is potentially fatal.) The men have rules: no drinking after 8 PM and no drinking on weekends. So, sort of the opposite of what recreational drinkers do who want to keep their jobs. Wisely, they don’t inform their school’s principal of their experiment.
Mads and his tipsy friends find themselves energized in the classroom. Mads capers about his classroom playing history trivia games. He even has the idea of repairing his faltering marriage to Anika (Maria Bonnevie) with a canoe trip. Yes, that’s what all the best marriage counselors recommend.
The music teacher, Peter enlivens aka weirdens things in his class by turning off the lights and having the students hold hands in the dark. I read a book (Trust Exercise by Susan Choi) about a drama teacher who tries something like this and groping ensues. These are the kinds of decisions one makes when trying to achieve the “exact point of being neither drunk nor sober.”
I think things started to go off the rails when they meet up on the weekend and up their booze consumption that leads to some cringey dad dancing to horrible 1970’s pop rock.
I was really pulling for Mads to sober up and do some jazz ballet. Speaking of Mads, it is so nice to see him in Nordic films where he can play complex characters who have somewhat ordinary lives. In American movies and TV he’s always the villain bent on world domination, or even cannibalism. Yeesh…
Another Round shines a light on drinking culture and the universal pressures and disappointments that people face. And I guess I was sort of impressed that the teens could recover from their boozing enough to pass their final exams. Upon graduation, the students receive graduation caps that look like jaunty sailors’ caps. The kids sign and bite each other’s caps — yes, you read that right. Maybe director Thomas Vinterberg will include more about that in a follow-up film on Denmark’s coffee culture. After all, if you are going to drown in a depressant, you need a stimulant to jettison you back to the surface.