By Mikey Isitt
Druk (or Another Round, 2020) is about four men acting like idiots, going around pissed as a chook while rationalising their behaviour as academic study. While a Greek chorus cries sorrowful tunes, the four depressed teachers make a pact to keep their blood alcohol level above 0.05 (we operate better at this level – according to some crackpot study) in an effort to recapture a certain childhood joy, embracing a forgotten culture of brotherhood and freedom in a world full of restriction and restraint. Maybe boozing will fix everything. Maybe they’ve entered a suicide pact.
Art by Pauline Wong
Director Thomas Vinterberg lost his daughter to a drunk driver four days into filming. Created amidst such a trauma, Druk stays so neutral about alcoholism. Train cops are tricked and handcuffed by drunk teens, one of the teachers stumbles home and pisses the bed, people show up to work totally smashed, while a few scenes of mild hangover malaise are sprinkled in. These are potentially confronting moments downplayed as minor shenanigans, or even played for laughs. Vinterberg says in an interview with star Mads Mikkelsen (Martin) he never wanted the film to be ‘moralistic’. Unfortunately, everything feels glossed over and shallow. When rightly dismissed by his students for being an irresponsible boozer, Martin says something to the effect of ‘you know who didn’t like alcohol? Hitler!’ It’s like a Norm MacDonald bit.
We’ve seen this kind of premise countless times in less-polished pieces of cinema like The Hangover or Hot Tub Time Machine. Down and out fellas coming together to relive their glory days and get absolutely munted in the process. Hollywood’s done this a hundred times. Another Round is only given the Oscar treatment ’cause it has subtitles. There’s nothing that separates Druk from the dregs of Hollywood. At least Hangover was unpredictable in how outrageous the characters’ escapades became. At least Time Machine had endearing characters. Nobody in Druk is interesting or likeable – not even Mikkelsen, who looks like he’s about to go ‘Hannibal’ on his wife in some scenes, smashing crockery and gritting his teeth in ridiculously earnest melodrama.
The script feels very old-fashioned. Women take a back seat, relegated to background authority figures that mildly admonish the men for their actions. No perspective is given to the families who bear much of the pain of alcoholism. Martin’s wife and kids are an afterthought, creating an insular, deluded perspective which is never pounced upon. There’s no big intervention moment, only a few lines like ‘you’ve been drinking a lot lately.’ What drama! The wife Anika has nothing to do. She has every right to be upset, and when she’s conveniently found out to be cheating, this is painted as some big betrayal on her part, and Martin is allowed play the victim.
The final scene paints a bewitching picture, and is the film’s only selling point. Like The Judge in Blood Meridian, Mikkelsen dances like a maniac amidst revelling partygoers and a grim feeling is in the air. Earlier one of the quartet, Tommy, drowns in the ocean (which comes out of nowhere – a desperate injection of drama) and graduating students are gleefully given sailors hats, symbolising they’ll have the same fate. Then truckloads of teens (similar to images of young soldiers being shipped off to war – both world wars are referenced constantly throughout the film) arrive at a harbour and drink and party. Martin, back off the wagon, joins them, briefly pondering by the seaside, before violently dancing, and jumping into the ocean, cathartically embracing his self-destruction. Thomas Vinterberg says it’s a happy ending. Huh?
It was perplexing to hear the director say that Druk is a ‘celebration of life’ when common sense and symbolism suggest the film is a tragedy, and not a very deep one. Apart from an interesting ending, Druk has nothing to say.
Two Pelicans out of Five.