Men & Chicken

 

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A film of such originality that it is truly unlike any other that you have ever seen.

 
Chicken & Men

Bedtime stories: Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Nicolas Bro, Mads Mikkelsen and Søren Malling

 

Written and directed by Anders Thomas Jensen, Men & Chicken is a Danish black comedy that begins with a death. It is the death in hospital of a man who leaves behind a video in which he reveals to his middle-aged children, Elias and Gabriel, that they were in fact adopted. The rest of the film deals with the discoveries made by these two when they travel to an island in the south hoping to meet their true father and encountering instead no less than three half-brothers. Elias and Gabriel may be somewhat odd themselves and it is evident at the start just how much they dislike each other, but the other family members whom they encounter living together in their father’s house are weirder still by far.

 

This is the first film made by Jansen to be released here although we have seen work that he has scripted for other directors such as Susanne Bier. In Denmark, however, he is more widely established and that may explain why this film has drawn together some of the best known names in Danish  cinema. Elias is played by Mads Mikkelsen and Gabriel by David Dencik while the half-brothers now encountered in all their eccentricity for the first time are Franz (Søren Malling) Gregor (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) and Josef (Nicolas Bro).

 

The presence of such a talented cast is a great help and in the film’s first half they know exactly how to play it, delivering their somewhat skewed dialogue with total seriousness: this serves to bring out, but never to force, the sense of absurdity that characterises the film. The siblings are prone to fight each other viciously but references to their eccentric choice of weapons ensures that the violence remains comic. With the father seeming to be an unseen invalid upstairs - he is said to be a hundred years old and a disgraced geneticist - we are curious as to where this totally off-beat tale is leading us, even if the material never quite justifies the involvement of such a remarkable cast.

 

Unfortunately what follows never really hangs together. As the violence grows, the film becomes less comic and a sinister tone develops (one minor aspect of the plot brings Psycho to mind), but the eccentricity of the set-up (it’s a further oddity that the house is full of animals including, yes, chickens) makes the tale seem too far removed from any kind of credibility to transform successfully into something akin to a horror film. Furthermore, a late swerve in the direction that the film is taking results in it turning out ultimately to be a  moral fable about the value of all lives on earth. Overall it is such a strange mix that one ends up inevitably dissatisfied: certainly it emerges as a film of real curiosity value, but it is a work at odds with itself to a degree that is bewildering.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, David Dencik, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Søren Malling, Nicolas Bro.

 

Dir Anders Thomas Jensen, Pro Kim Magnusson and Tivi Magnusson, Screenplay Anders Thomas Jensen, Ph Sebastian Blenkov, Pro Des Mia Stensgaard, Ed Anders Villadsen, Music Frans Bak and Jeppe Kaas, Costumes Manon Rasmussen.

 

M&M Producions/Studio Babelsberg/DCM Productions/FilmFyn/Film i Väst-Arrow Films.
104 mins. Denmark/Germany/Sweden. 2015. Rel: 15 July 2016. Cert. 15.