In his twelfth feature film THE RUSH “The Hunt” and “The Festival” director Thomas Vinterberg takes on the popular drug of alcohol – and creates a film that completely lives up to its title. We reveal more about one of the first film highlights of 2021 in our review.
OT: Druk (DK/SWE/NED 2020)
Martin’s (Mads Mikkelsen) best days are over. The high school teacher annoys his students with sleepy lessons, his wife with constant absences and himself with his self-pity. One evening, it is the 40th birthday of a good friend, Martin and his friends and fellow teachers Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen), Nikolaj (Magnus Millang) and Peter (Lars Ranthe) become aware of their monotonous lives – and fall head over heels Decision: True to the Norwegian philosopher Finn Skarderund, who put forward the controversial thesis around 20 years ago that every person is born with 0.5 per mille too little alcohol in their blood – such an alcohol level corresponds to the ideal state – they want to make this daring statement test their suitability for reality and from now on keep their alcohol level constant at 0.5. At first, this venture seems to be paying off for Martin: things are going better at school, and he also has passionate sex with his wife for the first time in weeks. But controlled excess also has its downsides…
Director and author Thomas Vinterberg (“The party”) had a precise plan for his twelfth feature film: it should be a paean to alcohol, starring his daughter Ida Maria Vinterberg (“The commune”) in a supporting role as the daughter of the main character Martin. But then life itself threw a spanner in the works for the filmmaker: Vinterberg’s daughter died in a car accident and plunged the 51-year-old into a deep depression, which forced him to take a long break from the project. When he resumed work on his work, he changed the tonal direction of his film: From now on, “The Intoxication” was no longer intended to be an ode, but neither was it intended to be a typical problem film about alcohol consumption and its consequences. Under these circumstances, it wouldn’t have been surprising if the finished project had turned into an indecisive mishmash. But Vinterberg has already proven several times how one can add the human factor to highly complex moral contexts and thereby explore any emotional limits. He managed to do this again in “Der Rausch”.
Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen), Peter (Lars Ranthe), Martin (Mads Mikkelsen) and Nikolaj (Magnus Millang) make a pact.
If you read the synopsis of “Der Rausch” like this, you can imagine at first glance how the story will continue: Of course, at some point the fun becomes serious. The friends lose control of their supposedly scientific experiment and suddenly find themselves in the middle of a massive alcohol addiction. Somehow it makes sense to automatically connect a film about the consumption of alcohol with an illustration of its dangers – because they exist. In this country alone, around 1.77 million men and women between the ages of 18 and 64 are considered alcohol addicts. Denmark, Vinterberg’s home country, is one of the countries with the most alcohol-drinking teenagers. Accordingly, this topic is often mentioned in the predominantly dramatic pop culture. Probably the most recent example: Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut “A Star is Born,” which was featured on many best lists of the cinema year in 2019. But there is also the factor of Thomas Vinterberg, who with his films such as “The Hunt” has never shied away from packing socially critical topics into strenuous, grueling dramas, but in the end he always has that special twist in order to present its content to the viewer not in a one-dimensional, striking way, but in a diverse and complex way.
“Thomas Vinterberg has never shied away from packing socially critical topics into strenuous, grueling dramas and always finds that special twist so that his content is not presented to the viewer in a one-dimensional, striking way, but in a diverse and complex way.”
In this respect, it is not surprising that “The Intoxication” was originally intended to be a film about the enjoyment and bright side of alcohol. The film still retains trace elements of – in the truest sense of the word – intoxication. The outstandingly choreographed and filmed ending alone, probably one of the best ever filmed, evokes the positive feeling of alcohol intoxication without caring about the consequences. And to briefly anticipate Mads Mikkelsen’s impression here: you’ve never seen him like this before. It’s worth buying a cinema ticket for his performance alone. But of course “The Intoxication” is also about the negative sides of alcohol. Previously. If Vinterberg allows the experiment, which is consistently focused on its scientific character, to escalate. But it is not the alcohol that is declared to be the problem here – the protagonists in focus here are reflected men who are firmly established in life, who, with a certain childishness, enjoy the idea of being permanently drunk, which is the origin of their experiment – but take the philosophical theses of the Norwegian Finn Skarderunds seriously at all times. Meticulous records are even kept of how alcohol changes friends and their perception of themselves and the environment.
With alcohol in their blood, Martin’s students find their teacher much more likeable.
The fact that the situation escalates is not (only) due to the alcohol. Instead, he brings to the surface the conflicts and crises of the main characters that were already bubbling under the surface before the experiment. Thomas Vinterberg, who was also responsible for the script together with his colleague Tobias Lindholm (who co-wrote “The Hunt” and “The Commune”), is pursuing a quite controversial approach with his film: for him, alcohol is an accelerant, but it is one that friends (and therefore those around them) can almost be grateful for in retrospect. This defensive attitude towards alcohol makes the makers’ original idea – a film that pays homage to alcohol – noticeable. With an appeal to a (healthy!) attitude to life, to let one’s displeasure out more often and not to eat everything in oneself in order to be generally satisfied, Vinterberg lets his audience leave the cinema on a positive note. But even this supposed gain in knowledge does not fully get to the heart of the essence of “Der Rausch”. In the end, alcohol is neither one Solution, still no – perhaps that is the biggest provocation.
“Thomas Vinterberg takes a very controversial approach with his film: for him, alcohol is an accelerant, but one for which his friends can almost be grateful in retrospect.”
With the exception of the ecstatic final scene, “Der Rausch” is staged very simply most of the time. The focus is not on audiovisual gimmicks, but rather on the strong playing of the ensemble. Although Mads Mikkelsen, alias Martin, receives the most attention and, to a certain extent, fulfills the role of the main character, his colleagues who are also involved in the experiment are no less important. Each of them represents a different possible effect that alcohol can have. To ensure that this never seems striking or textbook-like, Thomas Bo Larsen plays (“The hunt”)Magnus Millang (“Mercy”) and Lars Ranthe (“Adam’s Apples”) even in those scenes where things go emotionally haywire. Everything that happens in “The Rush” could happen exactly the same in real life.
Conclusion: Thomas Vinterberg wanted to tell an ode to alcohol with his new film “Der Rausch”. The end result is neither a paean to nor a denigration of hard liquor, but rather a complex and fascinating study of how alcohol consumption reflects the problems of our society.
“Der Rausch” can be seen in USA cinemas from July 22, 2021.