Some of us don’t know when to stop which is why we have to quit for good. But that doesn’t preclude having a drink - vicariously. Don’t worry. I haven’t gone back on the sauce but curiosity dictated that I go to see the award-winning Danish film, ‘’ at the Gate cinema. The only alcohol on my person was contained in a bottle of hand sanitizer, liberally applied.
I did wonder if the film would reignite a desire in me to drink, to have just The One. For old time’s sake. But having seen the messy horrors that the actors convincingly portrayed (were they really drinking? They looked like the real deal) I was glad to go home to a cup of tea.
The film focuses on four male high school teachers who have become a bit dull, a bit pedestrian, boring their students. The main character, Martin, is supposed to be teaching history. But he is a disaster in the classroom, barely able to string a coherent sentence together.
Out to dinner one night, the teachers come up with a scheme. It’s based on a pseudoscientific theory that says the blood-alcohol content of human beings is always too low. If people were to bring up their alcohol level, ever so slightly, it would be a novel way of treating depression.
Actually, there’s nothing novel about drowning one’s sorrows, drinking to take the edge off one’s melancholy. We’ve been doing it for aeons. But the teachers reckon that one or two glasses of wine should do the job.
Which sounds feasible.
The macho writer used to say that if you stop your drinking by 8pm every night, it regulates the work/life/booze balance.
Amusingly, Martin gives the lowdown on the drinking habits of three unnamed world leaders. Two of them were boozers and one was abstemious. He asks one of his students which leader would she vote for. She goes for the person who doesn’t drink. It turns out that that was Hitler. The other two were Franklin D Roosevelt and Winston Churchill.
With Martin finally connecting with his students (thanks to clandestinely slugging clear spirits out of water bottles), Churchill is cited as his and the students’ hero what with saving the world from fascism while being off his trolley. Or so the legend goes.
There’s a scene where the four lads are drinking their heads off in one of their houses. The wife of one, who works at night, sticks her head in the door and tells her husband to buy fresh cod the next day.
Cut to some crazy carry on in a supermarket the following morning. The guys, still drunk, in search of fresh cod, are told that only frozen fish is available. They fall around the place, crashing into glass fronted fridges and generally making a spectacle of themselves. And this is where it gets really loopy but kind of predictable. The drunks come up with a scheme whereby they’ll hire a boat - and fish for cod. This is the kind of thing that seems perfectly logical when under the severe influence of drink. The four go fishing- with hilarious and disastrous results.
On and on the drinking goes with the teachers carrying bottles of Smirnoff in their worn leather satchels. They drink furtively, topping up, all day long. It can only end in tears.
For example, one of the students is in the horrors about a forthcoming oral exam. He is convinced he is going to fail it. To try and help the student, one of the boozy teachers tells him to have a quick drink just before the exam. The student does so - and with his nerves steadied, he passes his test.
Perhaps the film director believes in the power of a quick shot to get through life’s difficulties. But the lure of drink is so strong that just having The One is the preserve of extremely disciplined types.
When you’re sober, watching people mess up on drink is a reminder of its awful potency.