UPDATE, writethru: Thomas Vinterberg’s Another Round swept the European Film Awards this evening, winning in each of its categories: Film, Director, Actor (Mads Mikkelsen) and Screenwriter (Vinterberg and Tobias Lindholm). The drama that’s Denmark’s entry for the International Feature Oscar is also the biggest film at the Danish box office this year and has continued to scoop prizes from San Sebastian to London.

Inline image   See you in the dark with a toast to Vinterberg and Mads. phil.

ANOTHER ROUND

a group of mid-lifers conduct

an experiment in alcoholism that runs out of control

Mads Mikkelsen as Martin in Another Round

Director: Thomas Vinterberg.

DENMARK/SWEDEN : 115 mins : CTC : R.T. 90% : 4.5/5

Sharing the writing of Another Round with Tobias Lindholm, director, Thomas Vinterberg, that fellow-provocateur of Lars Von Trier, founding members both, of Dogme 95, has mostly left that austere rulebook behind, calling on his extensive bag of cinematic skills to make an accomplished dive into the dangerous waters of alcoholism.

Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen), Martin (Mads Mikkelsen), Nikolaj (Magnus Millang) and Peter (Lars Ranthe) are high school teacher friends who are experiencing mid-life crises of stagnation, both in their personal and professional lives. They’ve heard of a theory by Karderud – that the human body requires a small but sustained increase of alcohol in the blood to operate at optimum efficiency and the four decide to put it to the test. 

Another Round feels less grounded in realism and more facile than The Hunt – the last collaboration between Mikkelsen and Vinterberg and which bared its teeth in social commentary.  It raises issues too, of professional behaviour and the irresponsible encouragement of underage drinking, although managing to deftly sidestep around them.  But, the men’s juvenile shenanigans in the film are compelling to watch.  And it’s satisfyingly predictable, in terms of human fallibility, to see their experiment (with initial results proving successful) taken to the extreme and to find them pulled into a destructive vortex. 

Vinterberg treats the film effectively, with Sturla Brandth Grovien’s camera moving fluidly through the early stages but with less composure, as intoxication sets in.  A centrepiece scene, in a bar, moves in slow motion and with muffled sound while, earlier, in the college staff room, Martin staggers amongst his colleagues and, to their amazement, his befuddled head makes contact with the wall with a sickening, bloody thud. 

While Mikkelson’s role is painted in broad brush strokes, it’s a fine performance which earned him Best Actor award in the European Film Awards.

Another Round is Denmark’s submission in the upcoming Academy Awards, more than validated by its stunning final scene.  Generating a head-spinning (intoxicating) degree of unleashed energy (and a surprising reveal of Mikkelson’s undeclared dance skills), it’s an ending that’s one of the year’s most breathtaking.

phil. 10.12.20. pbsailing@yahoo.com.au

Another Round will screen in the Perth International Lotterywest Film Festival at Somerville from Monday December 28 to Sunday January 03 at 8pm.  Check perthfestival.com.au for further details.

BOXING DAY OPENER

It’s rare for a film such as this to come from the U.S. although the fact that the director is Chinese may partially explain it.  It is achingly heartfelt and a high point in a tough year.  I hope you get to see it.

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The first of this season’s Lotterywest Film Festival films is home-grown in Western Australia and digs into the little-known history of the Afghan Cameleers (commemorated in the name of the Adelaide – Darwin rail line – The Ghan).  To open with a film made in W.A. is a double honour – for The Furnace and also for the Festival.

THE FURNACE

Western Australia’s own Western uncovers

a rich cultural mix, in a Boys’ Own adventure of gold and greed

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David Wenham and Ahmad Malek star in The Furnace

WESTERN AUSTRALIA : 116 mins : MA15+ : 3.5/5

Premiering at the Venice Film Festival, writer-director, Roderick MacKay, made an auspicious debut with The Furnace, a drama that opens a virtually unknown chapter of Western Australia’s late nineteenth century history.  Set in the rugged desert area of the mid-west, the theft of two gold ingots stamped with the royal crown, at the Mt. Magnet mining camp, kicks off a tale of pursuit by a dogged Sergeant Shaw (Jay Ryan) and the troopers.  But, while MacKay has unearthed a treasure trove of foreign cultures (and strange, near-extinct languages, such as the Aboriginal Badimaya), he keeps the social history lesson in the background, while turning the spotlight on adventure.

In fine form and looking as worn and battered as his leather hat, an unshaven David Wenham is Mal, wounded and desperate to reach the furnace at Kalgoorlie where he can melt the gold and get rid of its incriminating insignia.  And, while there are Indians, Persians and Chinese (as well as native Aboriginals), it’s the young Afghan Cameleer, Hanif (rising star, Ahmad Malek) who becomes Mal’s off-sider, representing those foreigners pressed into service at an early age, in what was little more than slave labour.  

This harsh land, where camels outnumber horses, is given a rugged beauty by photographers Michael McDermott and Bonnie Elliott.  While there are some lapses in continuity and a slackening of the pace in the middle third, MacKay steers clear of sentiment.  And he doesn’t go soft on the racial intolerance and abuse of the time or the terrible thirst that can drive a person insane – in one scene a water vendor is shot, without a second thought, by a penniless drifter, desperate for a drink.  The Furnace is brutal and honest but, while it has a similar tone, it stops short of the grim nihilism of Australian film maker, John Hillcoat’s The Proposition (2005).

While having some resemblance to the 1948 film, Treasure of the Sierra Madre (and sharing the same ironic demise of the stolen gold), The Furnace is similarly prestigious, being culturally, historically and aesthetically significant.  But, it’s for its splendid vision of a Western Australian landscape, as thrilling as that of the American Western, and for its slickly staged action that The Furnace should find success, both here and overseas.

phil. 18.11.20. pbsailing@yahoo.com.au

The Furnace will screen in the Lotterywest Film Festival at Somerville from Monday, November 30 to Sunday, December 6 at 8pm.  Check perthfestival.com.au for further details.

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The second film is from the Icelandic director of Rams, which was a big hit a couple of years back at Somerville and then was re-made here in W.A.  Here’s more of that quirky, off-beat humour and a wonderful performance from an unlikely female hero.

 ​​Inline image     See you in the dark with the warrior farmer, Inga. phil.

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THE COUNTY (Heradid) (2019)

from the Icelandic director of Rams,

a woman fights the injustice of an agrarian cooperative

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The principled Inga, prepared to fight, in The County.

ICELAND : 92 mins : CTC : 3.5/5

After the wryly humorous Rams, a tale of two estranged sheep-farmer brothers that became an audience favourite and was successfully re-made in the south-west of Western Australia, Icelandic writer/director, Grimur Hakonarson takes an equally incisive look at one woman’s fight against rural injustice in The County.

Inga (Arndis Hronn Egilsdottir) and husband, Reynir (Hinrik Olofsson) run a dairy farm in a beautiful setting on the rugged plains in the Reykjavik hinterland, surrounded by snow-capped hills.  The Icelandic climate is harsh and these are people who battle, on a 24/7 basis, to keep their heads above water.  Inga is tough, resilient and determined and the film opens with her, alone and unaided, pulling a calf from its mother’s womb with chains attached to its legs.  When a tragedy occurs, leaving Inga on her own, there seems little doubt that she will soldier on, once the grief has passed.

All the farmers of the County belong to the Co-op that was set up, many years ago, to service their needs.  They order their supplies through the Co-op and shop at its grocery store.  But there are disturbing tales of inflated prices, intimidation and reprisals if they go elsewhere to shop, all of which has stirred Inga to take rebellious action.

In The County, Egilsdottir gives a vivid portrayal of a remarkable woman.  Short on words, but with an inventive and resourceful mind (and a strong sense of fair play), Inga strikes a contrast between the traditional conservatism expected of the farming life (that originally gave birth to the Co-op) and her embrace of the modern technology of social media to air her concerns. 

Late in The County, when cinematographer, Mart Taniel’s camera lingers over the picture-perfect view of the farm that Inga stands and stares at, the audience may think she is savouring the view with affection and is saddened by the thought of leaving.  But not so.  Film director, Grimur Hakornson, has captured perfectly the typically Icelandic understanding of the landscape – as a working environment and one without a trace of sentimentality – and shows her smiling.