A true fairy tale from the time when drinking still helped: It is a drama full of surprises and sudden changes in mood, a rollercoaster ride of glaring fun and sudden moments of despair that arise in the film “Der Rausch” from an almost scientific question.
“With this film we want to examine the liberating effect that alcohol can have on people – and bow down to it,” said the 52-year-old director Thomas Vinterberg about the basic idea of his new film. It is about “paying tribute to alcohol” without hiding the fact that “people die through excessive drinking or are destroyed by it.”
Drink the world nicely
In fact, the almost systematic drinking in “Der Rausch” turns out to be a source of joy for a community of men who had previously apparently lost all lust for life. The history teacher Martin, played by Mads Mikkelsen with a tired look and the movements of an aged sleepwalker, is despised by his students as a lame and chatterbox as well as by his wife – until he and his teacher colleagues Nikolaj (Magnus Millang), Peter (Lars Ranthe ) and Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen) got the idea to drink the world nicely in the future. According to the theories of a rather obscure Norwegian psychiatrist, the viewers learn that people were born with too little alcohol in their blood and would do well to consistently up to a blood alcohol level of 0.5 per mille.
Vinterberg’s »Der Rausch« was awarded the Oscar for the best international film this year. It really is a cinematic event, thanks to the charisma of the actor Mads Mikkelsen and the seductive power of alcohol. Mikkelsen plays the wonderfully crumpled teacher Martin. He himself is unable to explain where and when he lost interest in his work as a teacher, in his wife (Maria Bonnevie) and in his model children.
And when the fun returns thanks to the half-foolish and half-serious drinking experiment, the hero wakes up – and tries to regain what he has lost. This awakening is both terribly funny and sad to watch. It’s the really touching drama of a man who has become ridiculous to himself.
Martin and his companions flourish for a while when they drink alcohol quite systematically, sometimes at school, sometimes in their free time. And they actually feel re-energized, empathetic, freed from the frustration of life. Even the students suddenly seem to love their teachers again.
The director Vinterberg himself became famous with »Das Fest« in 1998 and then sank a bit into routine and mediocrity with his work. The enjoyment of his comeback film comes not least from the fact that he has been refreshingly avoiding moralizing for a long time. The bottom line is that Vinterberg shows the courage to ambivalence in a casual and wise way: his film by no means denies the social, psychological and physical toxic effects of all intoxicants – and yet it spreads a wonderfully good mood as a celebration of a possibly tipsy zest for life.