Film & TV

Wonder Drug Cures All Problems

Mads Mikkelsen in Another Round. (Henrik Ohsten/Samuel Goldwyn)
Thomas Vinterberg’s film Another Round makes a surprising case for the benefits of alcohol.

I’ve just discovered a film that has changed my life. Give it a chance, and it’ll change yours, too. The film is Another Round, by the sly Dane Thomas Vinterberg (The Celebration), and it heralds the discovery of a miraculous substance by four friends, all of them high-school teachers in Denmark, on the occasion of a 40th birthday party. Life has gotten a bit stale for all of them: History teacher Martin (Mads Mikkelsen) is, for instance, both boring and the cause of boredom in others. During a typical class, his students sit in stunned silence as he delivers halting, barely connected thoughts on various things that happened at various times in history.

But birthday boy Nikolaj (Magnus Millang) has a cure for the blahs, and it’s scientifically backed. A Norwegian named Finn Skårderud, who is both a psychiatrist and a philosopher, has found that man is born with a deficit of 0.05 percent blood-alcohol content. To rectify this unfortunate natural shortfall, it’s optimal to restore the missing amount by maintaining a low level of alcohol in the bloodstream throughout the day — an amount that can be reached via a glass or two of wine. We’re talking about basic chemistry here. Introducing alcohol to the system, Nikolaj notes enthusiastically, makes a person “more musical and open.” More confident, more competent, more joyous, and more accepting of all of life’s wonders. Remember, Skårderud is both a psychiatrist and a philosopher (I think he teaches at the University of Heineken), so his theory must be presumed sound.

The four pals make a pact to conduct a living experiment on themselves by keeping the recommended dosage in their blood as a matter of course. They’re not suggesting anything crazy like imbibing all day and night: There is to be no consumption after 8 p.m., nor on weekends. Ernest Hemingway, we are told, drank steadily while the sun shone but stopped at 8 so he would be able to write the following day. Was not Hemingway a great success? Plus, writing lasting works of literature is probably tougher than teaching high school.

Enacting the plan, the friends carefully monitor their blood-alcohol levels via Breathalyzers that enable them to stay right around the 0.05 percent level. The results are wondrous. Martin, who has a good long swig of Smirnoff before class, becomes a popular, engaging teacher who gets his students clapping and laughing along. His class goes from stuffy to fun: Did you know, for instance, that Ulysses Grant, Franklin Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill were all big drinkers? Adolf Hitler, on the other hand, was teetotal. Makes you think, doesn’t it? Martin takes his wife on a canoeing adventure with their two teen sons for the first time in ages and everyone has a grand time. Sex with his wife, previously as chilly as Hjørring in February, becomes hotter than Tonder in August. (An unusually warm August). Another teacher discovers he becomes a much better chorus director under the guidance of alcohol, warm and funny and knowing just what to say to make everyone feel and sound better. Another teacher coaches soccer and does such great work building the confidence of “Specs,” an awkward little kid with glasses, that the boy scores a goal. All of this is well worth the slightly awkward details that crop up from time to time, such as the discovery of several mostly empty bottles of booze in the storage closet in the gym.

Things go so well that Nikolaj suggests an upgrade to the plan. If a little alcohol is good, more must be even better. Henceforth, the quartet decide, each man should feel free to drink at his own pace throughout the day and venture beyond the 0.05 percent level. Martin thinks this is a fine idea and boosts his BAC level all the way to 1.2 percent. His wife notes that he’s become a different person. The true breakthrough comes when Nikolaj observes that alcohol is having such a salutary effect that the true object of the group’s experiment should be to drink until they reach an advanced state he calls “oblivion.”

I must confess I was so excited by the revelations in Vinterberg’s film that I cut it off halfway through, but by then I was pretty sure that nothing bad would ever become of anyone in it. The drink-all-day plan is simple, elegant, and airtight. To mark the epiphany, I immediately went off to the liquor store and filled my shopping cart as joyously as Nicolas Cage in one of my favorite romcoms of the Nineties, Leaving Las Vegas. Cheers, bottoms up, and skol.

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