“Hannibal dances!” was a colleague’s incredulous reaction on seeing Mads Mikkelsen in Another Round, the actor’s latest collaboration with director Thomas Vinterberg. Although Hannibal, the NBC/Sky Silence of the Lambs prequel series, reached the end of its run in 2015 (for the time being at least), Mikkelsen’s considered and exquisitely dressed turn as the eponymous serial killer obviously made a lasting impression in public consciousness (quite some achievement in itself given Anthony Hopkins’s iconic Dr Lecter).
And, not to give too much away, although it is trailed from early on in Another Round that Martin, Mikkelsen’s character, is good at dancing and “has the moves”, there’s an astounding moment in the film that – whether you’re familiar with Mikkelsen’s other film and TV incarnations or not – is a deeply surprising and dazzling highlight. A moment that, for my money, ranks as one of Mikkelsen’s best on screen.
Another Round is Vinterberg and co-scriptwriter Tobias Lindholm’s fourth collaboration, following Submarino (2010), The Hunt (2012) and The Commune (2016). A mature film suffused with music, friendly intimacy and drinking (lots and lots of drinking), it’s the affectionate and often funny tale of world-weary teacher Martin (Mads Mikkelsen) and 3 of his middle-aged pals, each experiencing a crisis of sorts, who jointly search for some kind of liberation in the bottom of a bottle.
Following his award-winning turn for Vinterberg in The Hunt, Mikkelsen’s performance as Martin, a closed off, barely-present shell of a man journeying through a soaring realisation of self-knowledge, is a masterclass in emotional and physical progression. It’s a profoundly nuanced delivery, where psychological and sensual discoveries are carefully revealed, often by the smallest of gestures – be it the inflection of an eyebrow or the sharp pursing of the lips.
Much of our attention is focused on Martin’s face, with Sturla Brandth Grøvlen’s (also cinematographer on LFF 2020 selection Shirley) probing, intimate camera relentlessly recording every peak and trough. Vinterberg and Lindholm developed the role of Martin specifically for Mikkelsen, and it’s immediately apparent that both their insight into his expressive range and their unbridled expectations of his abilities fuelled this breathtaking turn.
Vinterberg and Lindholm’s long-gestating project was initially conceived as a celebration of alcohol in all of its glorious highs and inevitable lows. But, as they developed the script, heftier ideas about friendship and ageing began to become more important. In a recent interview Vinterberg explained that the inspiration for his characters lay in a desire to challenge the potential stagnation of middle age, and, most importantly, to explore how best to shine in the life you have left; the hook being that alcohol, in Vinterberg’s words, “holds a mirror to their lives, perhaps helping them realise who they are”, and in turn provoking them to consider what better version of themselves they might become.
Vinterberg and Lindholm wrote each of the main roles with specific actors in mind (many of whom, including Thomas Bo Larsen, are regular collaborators). The characters’ easy intimacy and camaraderie are evident from the get-go, as the story throws us head-first into a major turning point in their relationships. From dad dancing to bed-wetting, the writers certainly don’t hold back on the more embarrassing sides of their characters’ drunken antics, but the focus rarely shifts from their commitment one to another. And one of the script’s strengths is the way ideas around drinking are insightfully used to explore the boundaries and responsibilities of friendship.
Vinterberg and Lindholm have a wealth of film and TV experience between them. Lindholm has written and directed 3 impressive features himself (R, 2010; A Hijacking, 2012; A War, 2015) alongside scripting for others. His TV and episodic credits include Borgen, Mindhunter and the highly anticipated upcoming TV2/ SVT-1/ BBC Kim Wall murder drama The Investigation. Vinterberg first garnered international attention with his Dogme 95 feature Festen, which exploded on screens in 1998 as the first fruits of that movement were making waves across the film landscape. With more than 10 features under his directorial belt, Vinterberg also has a TV series in development, the near future-set migration drama Families like Ours.
Character integrity and the desire to explore challenging ideas and complex emotional situations are features of Vinterberg’s and Lindholm’s individual and collaborative work. In Another Round this collaboration attains a profoundly satisfying maturity.
- After screening at LFF, Another Round will be released in UK cinemas on 27 November 2020
Originally published: 23 September 2020