Melvyn Minnaar: Another Round and thoughts on sensible drinking

By , 1 September 2021

Mads Mikkensen stars as “Martin” in Druk, 2020.

If you’ve not seen Druk, make a plan. It’s a sweep-along lyrical panacea for all midlife crises (especially men’s and for our time) and then some. The movie gives the never-mentioned-in-the-wine-business word – ‘alcohol’ – a delightful, charitable dark and humorous twist. Don’t miss it before you pour another round of the best from your cellar.

Oddly rebranded in American as Another Round, it won the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film last year. Showcasing a glorious performance by Mads Mikkensen, it was written and directed by the wise-guy Danish auteur-director Thomas Vinterberg.

The bland English title irks me because the Danish ‘druk’ – meaning more or less ‘binge drinking’ – is close to the Afrikaans words ‘dronk’ and ‘druk’ and, of course, a blatant British ‘drunk’. All these connotations come into metaphorical play as you negotiate this fine film’s existential landscape.

It is a lot of fun (initially anyway): the plot – if that is the right word – takes off when four teacher pals, celebrating a 40th birthday (midlife yellow card), generously toast and joke about a well-known psychiatrist who suggested that humans suffer from a natural alcohol deficiency. And so the drinking brothers (all having personal problems of various degrees, yellow cards all round) make a pact to experiment and keep up the alcohol level at all times.

For Martin (Mikkensen) an uninspiring/uninspired history teacher and distant husband and father (midlife red card) the experiment works at first. Then things go awry, and a suicide kills off the ‘druk’ pact with one last fling. The movie ends with Martin’s magnificent heavenly ascension in a dance of life and liberation.

A tragicomedy and, in the words of a critic, “an intoxicating look at midlife crises”, the joke was started by a misquote from the Norwegian psychiatrist Finn Skårderud’s introduction to an1880 essay, Gli effetti psicologici del vino (‘On the Psychological Effects of Wine’) by the 19th century Italian writer and scholar Edmondo de Amicis.

De Amicis was a lover of wine, and punted the cheer that it could bring. The cool Nordic humour that Skårderud tried in his satirical suggestion that we all need blood alcohol content of 0.05 percent clearly went the wrong way. (The shrink had to sidestep numerous barbs after the movie came out. Let’s say it was a bad joke.)

But De Amicis’ enthusiasm for wine and the positives of its alcoholic inspiration is easily understandable. Born in what is now the town Imperia Oneglia, he was after all a man from Italy’s grand food and wine north west where names such as Liguria, Piedmont and Tuscany conjure up the bliss of gourmand experiences and a better lived life.

De Amicis would probably have been a fan of regional vermentino (together with locals such as bosco and albarola grapes, the white DOC mainstay there) and glorious sangiovese (sometimes blended in that region with melodiously-named canaiolo, cliegiolo, pollera and bracciola nera, not to mention rossese di Ventimiglia). All so delightfully exotic that one can easily understand why De Amicis would sing its creative praises.

Of course, when  Skårderud made the silly joke of 0.05 percent, a closer reading would have indicated that he meant only slight inebriation – only a glass or two  of vermentino or sangiovese to get the human spirit to lift and fly. And, as recent research has (again) shown, a small amount of especially red wine is good for the heart.

But then when a midlife crisis strikes, who knows whether anyone would stick to two glasses a day. Mads Mikkensen’s Martin and his depressed mates in the land of gloomy Kierkegaard thought were set on drinking their sorrows away, mistaking the trap of binging and a happier life for the essence of fine-tuned pleasure.

The latter could, for me, be a glass of that mysteriously delicious Ayama Vermentino produced by Michela Sfiligoi and Attilio dal Piaz in Paarl. Or, wondering when a visit to Tuscany will ever again be possible for a little village chianti, perhaps two glasses of Anthonij Rupert Terra Del Capo Sangiovese 2019 will do. (Well-priced at around R100.)

As Edmondo del Amicis did say: “wine adds a smile to friendship” – another fine check-up on midlife crises.

  • Melvyn Minnaar has written about art and wine for various local and international publications over the years. The creativity that underpins these subjects is an enduring personal passion. He has served on a few “cultural committees”.

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