Director: Thomas Vinterberg
This is a mighty, marvellous film starring the mighty, marvellous Mads Mikkelsen. I was going off movies a bit recently, with no real motivation to get back to the cinema, so I’m glad I made an exception for this.
Mr Mikkelsen stars as one of a group of four middle aged pals, all school teachers in Denmark, who decide (in the throes of a shared midlife crisis they only seem to be dimly aware of) to try out an experiment. The human man, the theory goes, has evolved with 0.05% too little alcohol in his bloodstream. So what would happen if you decided to constantly drink, just enough that you make up that 0.05% level, in your daily life?
The film then follows the ups and downs of this experiment as they start carrying around vodka to swig from in secret, and as the events play out it is as comical as it is touching.
It’s actually impressive just as much for what it avoids as what it includes. For a very bloke-y film, it’s admirably free of any real bawdiness (it’s a 12A) or leeriness. You can imagine that in a UK or USA production (and apparently there is a US remake being planned) the temptation to ramp up the Hangover type humour would be too great, and you would get the guys going to strip clubs or going to wild student parties or whatever. But here it’s all about them finding a new zest in life, actually becoming confident and inspiring teachers as their inhibitions drop with their constant tipsiness. Mads goes from sleepwalking through life to becoming the most popular teacher in school and reconnecting with his family through canoeing weekends, and all four of the guys seem to regain an energy and sense of purpose they thought they had lost.
It also avoids a moralistic tone, in favour of a more muted stance. Not that it’s afraid to show the downside (and there is one night in particular the guys take it all too far), but generally speaking it’s very balanced, showing the undeniable joys of being drunk and feeling invincible as well as those inevitable lows. And while not expressly finger-wagging, it doesn’t shirk from being honest about the fact that teachers really shouldn’t drink.
I love a good ending, and I love a good song. The end song here is something cheesy called What a Life by Scarlet Pleasure (me neither) and I guarantee you’ll be humming it all day after seeing this. The music on the whole is fabulous throughout the film: with such diverse pleasures as The Meters’ Cissy Strut and Tchaikovsky’s The Tempest suite.
Top film, highly recommended.
Might appeal to people who enjoyed:
I suppose it would appeal to people who like slightly arty European films with a dry sense of humour. It’s definitely of that ilk. Thomas Vinterberg has done some heavier stuff, but this is engaging and vibrant. As I’ve mentioned above, it’s very bloke-y, and I thought that might put my wife off it a bit, but she didn’t mind at all.