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This week for “Close-Up with Camenker”,  Zach reviews . . . ANOTHER ROUND! (January 1, 2021)

Click here for the blurb and viewing link of ANOTHER ROUND!

Full Review

“Thomas Vinterberg’s film ANOTHER ROUND, which is Denmark’s submission for Best International Film at this year’s Oscars, recently claimed the award for Best Foreign Language Film from the Indiana Film Journalists Association. It was also nominated in four other categories, including Best Picture. Since PARASITE won the top prize at last year’s Oscars, it appears that foreign/international films are being taken more seriously.

Aside from COLLECTIVE, which I reviewed two weeks ago, this film appears to be the other most anticipated international piece among film journalists who I follow. As a result, I suspect these films are the two shoe-ins among a crowd of nearly 100 submissions for the International Film Oscar, though the February shortlists that the Academy puts out for a handful of categories, this one included, will be telling. Typically, 10 films are selected as semi-finalists with the appropriate branches voting for the final five to compete for the gold.

ANOTHER ROUND, streaming in the Red River Virtual Cinema, is a highly original piece that still has me thinking deeply about its message almost a full day after I finished it.

Amusing. Heartbreaking. Playful. Unique.

These are the variety of words that come most immediately to mind when focusing on some key takeaways from this piece of storytelling. As you can see, it is quite a mix of genres and styles, best described I would say as a “quasi-experimental tragicomedy.”

The story of four high school teachers who have each reached different low points in their mid-life, ANOTHER ROUND takes the common concept of consuming alcohol and gives it a twist (pun intended) when the four friends decide to experiment with their daily intake to see how it affects their lives. This bizarre, yet not so crazy, idea quickly leads them to the realization that the boost of energy from drinking at any time of day gives them each a renewed strength, or so it seems.

What may seem entirely predictable as Martin, Nikolaj, Peter, and Tommy take on this experiment ultimately becomes rather unexpected and even surprising at times. These four men, led brilliantly by the always impressive Mads Mikkelsen as Martin, whose English speaking credits include CASINO ROYALE, ROGUE ONE, and AT ETERNITY’S GATE, are quite a character study in behavior, which aligns with my “quasi-experimental” designation.

The “tragicomedy” aspect comes from the obvious fun and terror that their experiment causes. Without giving anything away, one clear message that this film conveys is how much the Danish culture relies on drinking as a social connection, first reflected in the high school aged characters that we meet at the start. For those of us who’ve always lived in the United States, we know this to be true in our culture as well. For some people, drinking, no matter the amount, makes them really fun to be around. For others, it is the exact opposite. Given those truths, it should come as no surprise that there are comic and tragic aspects to the characters’ experiment in ANOTHER ROUND. What does come as a surprise is how Vinterberg chooses to convey this in his own observatory manner, delving deep into each of the four friends.

What makes this film so poignant is exactly that: the character arcs that are created through the common bond of alcohol consumption among Martin, Nikolaj, Peter, and Tommy. Unlike some studies in character, particularly those that focus on several people, the filmmakers of ANOTHER ROUND provide us with the depth that we need for each man. As a result, the audience cannot help but laugh in their triumphs and tear up in their moments of weakness. It is hard to not become one with all four of them, which is just one sign of a great film and one that is not easy to achieve.

While Mikkelsen is superb as the defeated and regretful Martin, who anchors the film’s characterization, Thomas Bo Larsen’s portrayal of Tommy, who I assume to be the oldest of the four friends, is the most loveable and heartbreaking. While it’s hard not to love all four characters, there are times when the unique balance of tragedy and comedy makes you also hate them all deeply.

If the film has one weakness, it is that the second hour drags a bit and lacks development in a few small places. While none of those places are key parts of the film, they do leave you with some questions that the filmmakers should have answered to unify the piece even further.

That said, the originality of the beautiful storytelling, gorgeous visuals, and strong acting far outweigh the small bits of negative. 

Two thoughts remain as I finish typing. As always, how do you compare apples and oranges among films? Both COLLECTIVE, a documentary, and ANOTHER ROUND, a tragicomedy, are great films. Either could take Best International Film if nominated and both deserve it for such different reasons.

Bigger than that, however, is the elephant in the room as you watch and reflect on this movie, which is the concept of alcohol, such a social and enjoyable experience yet also so destructive and damaging for so many people and families.

I’m left wondering how we can continue to stress the importance of balance, as we do with our work, our relationships, and so much more, so that we can model good behavior for our youth and the next generation. It’s a thought I never would have expected to have when I read the synopsis of the film, but one that has stuck with me since I finished it almost 24 hours ago.

Stay tuned for Volume III, which will reveal my thoughts on the timely 1951 film NATIVE SON, based on Richard Wright’s novel, and streaming through Kino Marquee in Red River’s Virtual Cinema.”

Click here to learn more about Zach Camenker!

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