February 4, 2021 – I finally got around to seeing this highly recommended foreign language film (Danish and Swedish) last night, having sadly overlooked it before, and it does have some fine performances, led by the world's best known Danish actor, Mads Mikkelsen (“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” and “Doctor Strange”).
History teacher Martin (Mikkelsen) has existential ennui. His students, his children, and his wife Anika (Maria Bonnevie of “The 13th Warrior”) all find him boring and he is largely ignored by everyone, except for a few fellow teachers, who all remember him when he was more interesting.
One night, while drinking with his friends, Tommy (played by Thomas Bo Larsen) Peter (Lars Ranthe) and Nikolaj (Magnus Millang) Martin reveals to them that his life seems meaningless. He and his friends proceed to get drunk. Because this makes them feel better temporarily, they later embark on an experiment to test the theory of psychiatrist Finn Skårderud: That having a blood alcohol content of .05 percent makes one more creative and relaxed. Interesting experiment. What could possibly go wrong?
Surprisingly, the experiment works well at first. Martin, Tommy, Peter and Nikolaj all feel better and do a better job of teaching their students than they did when they were sober. Martin arranges a camping vacation and seems to be getting along better with his wife, but even in this drug-induced high, there are signs of trouble ahead.
The four men decide to increase the dosage of alcohol, which also works to an extent, although signs of impending trouble increase. Finally, the four push the alcohol to the max, getting totally wasted. It seems lucky that none of the men are arrested for public drunkenness, or lose their jobs because of what they do in this state of extreme intoxication.
The film does have some mixed messages about drinking, particularly in one scene where a teacher provides alcohol to a student during an oral exam, which improves the student's performance in the exam. The student, who was very nervous, is able to relax because of the alcohol provided him by the teacher just before, and during the exam. That scene, along with the other scenes which show the improved teaching abilities of the inebriated teachers send possibly harmful or misleading messages about the value of intoxication.
The four drunk friends push past the temporary euphoria to a point where the underlying problems in their lives are brought to the fore. Martin's marriage falls apart, and there is a tragic consequence for one of his friends.
The film has its comedic elements, but it ends on a somewhat sombre note, and there are major questions about Martin's future. The acting performances, led by Mikkelson, are very powerful. Director and co-writer Thomas Vinterberg (“The Hunt” and “The Celebration”) again shows why he is one of the best directors around, with another powerhouse film. This movie rates a B.
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