Notes from a festival: Silly notions and second chances
In this series of columns, the writer, the entertainment editor of the organisation, will be reflecting on the films being shown at the 51st International Film Festival of India in Goa
Art will survive. That much was evident as the opening film of the 51st International Film Festival of India (IFFI) began playing late on Saturday evening, in a half-full theatre in which all the government-mandated pandemic precautions were observed. Masks were worn, sanitisers were being dispensed, and a strange quiet hung in the air, almost as if everyone was worried that any verbal expressions of joy that a film festival was being organised for the first time in a year, could end up jinxing it. Soon enough, the lights were switched off, some of us patrons pinched ourselves in disbelief that the festival was actually underway, and the opening film, Thomas Vinterberg’s Druk (Another Round), began playing. Another Round incidentally is Denmark’s Academy Awards submission for the Best International Feature Film category, and its all-round excellence vindicates the decision.
A drunk professor… unruly, disrespectful students… No, I’m not talking about Vijay’s Master. Vinterberg’s Another Round is an example of the joys of seeing a story occupy prominence over actors. The film’s final scene, as the protagonist, Martin (a wonderful Mads Mikkelsen), dances about in gay abandon, is perhaps the best ‘mass’ scene I’ve seen in recent times. It’s a film whose wealth in visceral entertainment debunks the usual myths concerning ‘festival films’. And yet, this isn’t for lack of depth. While outwardly being about a group of men ‘being men’—wild camaraderie, boorish drunkenness—the film, at its heart, is a poignant commentary on many difficult topics, including mid-life crisis, marital apathy, and existential fatigue.
A film about a group of men constantly getting drunk out of their minds, could so easily run the risk of romanticising alcohol (remember Hangover?), but Another Round exercises tremendous control over its material and exhibits much sensitivity in dealing with the tricky topic of alcoholism, without ever sermonising. It shows how difficult adult lives are, how easily routine can lead to acedia. And it’s a fitting opening film, especially for its bittersweet end, for is that not a fitting reflection of the world around us now?
The chief benefit of attending a festival like IFFI is how it provides early access to world cinema, but there’s also the underrated joy of experiencing classics once again on the big screen—like Stanley Kubrick’s anti-war film, Paths of Glory (1957), that was screened on Sunday. Half a century after its release, the film continues to remain shockingly relevant. Is that an indication of how humanity’s basal ideas have undergone very little change? Or a testament to the vision of Kubrick’s film? Perhaps it’s a bit of both. From dubbing patriotism the last refuge of the scoundrel to observing how some cockroaches lead more enviable lives than humans, Paths of Glory continues to be a searing commentary on war, and a takedown of those in mansions and palaces who readily sacrifice the lives of the innocent who rank below them.
Another Round, as the title indicates, is about second chances, and comes at a time when the world and its people are seeking revitalisation. In Paths of Glory, there’s a tender scene at the end that shows the power of art: of how a woman’s beautiful song moves unruly soldiers into self-reflection, into recognising their humanity. These are lessons that are always important, but particularly so in a time of tumult.