Lördag (Saturday), 11:00–11:30, H135a
Affiliering (affiliation): The Scottish College (Congregational and United Reformed), GBR
“They clepe [call] us drunkards”
(Shakespeare’s “Danish play”, Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 4, Line 21)
Vinterberg’s Druk (2020) [Another Round or ‘Binge drinking’] invites us to imbibe and to interrogate the contribution of alcohol consumption to human prospering. Comedy pivotally helps us ‘tae see oursels as ithers see us’, and holds up a mirror (with its distortions) to our lives, and so both to be who we are and to engage in societal self-examination. ‘Comedy is one of the most important ways a culture talks to itself about itself’. It reduces the risk that large, looming concerns overwhelm us, creating a ‘safe environment to deal with threatening stimuli’), a secure space in which humour (particularly humour concerning alcohol) enhances conversation, lubricated by modest self-mockery.
Druk foregrounds Denmark’s uneasy and sometimes unhealthy love affair with drink. While Nordic trends are towards less, and more responsible, drinking, here is a Danish exceptionalism, with rising alcohol consumption. Druk showcases a youth drinking culture (from the outset we see a high-school “beer race”) but also takes us on the comedic-tragic journey of the middle-aged characters. The problem of youth binge-drinking is acknowledged: youthful excess (as in the obstreperous episode on the train); a lingering linking of drinking with maturity and Vildmænd masculinity; cultural rites such as new-school-year Puttefest; and the persistence of ‘Another Round’ and drikkepres/peer pressure with pølsepressers’ “pushing the sausage”. Yet, adolescents seem to be tiring of alcohol-binges (“Vomit is uncool”), reflected in the film’s students’ demand for teaching improvements, to enable them to achieve the grades they need for university entrance.
The troubled teachers become aware of a piece of Nordic “reported research” suggesting that low blood-alcohol might undermine achievement. They embark upon an “experiment” (from design methodology onwards) for alcohol to deliver ‘a kick in the butt’ and then keep their blood-alcohol topped up optimally. ‘Comedy and tragedy are near cousins whose paths often cross’ and Druk intersects them with an almost perfect storm of personal and public concerns: mid-life crises, family and partner life problems, societal pressures. Denmark as well as Martin is wondering, ‘I don’t know how I ended up like this’. But can light (but growing) inebriation be a way forward? ‘Øl er til torst og ikke til tørst’ (Carlsberg), but perhaps conventional reliance upon comfort-drinking ignores a greater possibility – to up one’s game. With Druk’s references to angst-full Kierkegaard and its sober rendition of the iconic I Danmark er jeg født, Danish teasing of Sweden as a forbudsland/ regimented society is turned on Denmark’s own assumptions about its own more liberated creativity.
The experiment shows initial promise but soon leads to tragic consequences. Yet, the film ends with an exuberant celebration, alcohol playing a positive role, though (as Druk’s handcuffed train official suggests) mindful to ‘take it down a notch’. If the film does not ask (as the iconic Dane, Jeppe på Bjerget, did), Why does Jeppe drink?, its closing scene suggests that an answer lies in an awakening to a ‘joyful life’.
Dr Jack Dyce is Emeritus Professor of Nordic Theology at The Scottish College (Congregational and United Reformed) with a broad interest in Nordic and particularly Danish studies which began with a PhD and MLitt on Grundtvig but embraces Nordic Noir and Baltic Studies, the Viking world and Scandinavian education.