Men and Chicken
Directed by Anders Thomas Jensen
Released October 25, 2016 (DVD)
Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words, which, as it happens, is about twice the length of a typical review I write. I only saw the poster for this film after I finished watching it, but I think it summarizes it far better than I possibly could, though I’ll try my best in the ensuing several paragraphs. On the left, Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen appears with curly hair and a mustache, wearing a tie and caressing a chicken. On the right, another person is clad in a tie but his head has been replaced with an egg. It’s a fitting representation of this thoroughly odd, definitely original story of five misfit half-brothers who begin to question why it is they have so much trouble operating in normal society.
Gabriel (David Dencik) and Elias (Mads Mikkelsen) are brothers whose father dies at the opening of the film and leaves them a video will which alerts them to the life-changing news that he and his late wife were not their parents, but that they were the children of a mysterious scientist who is still alive and residing on a small Danish island called home by fewer than fifty people. Upon arriving to the home of their three half-brothers, Gabriel and Elias are greeted by animalistic, insular behavior and a very peculiar way of functioning and living. As they discover more about their past and the childbirth deaths of all of their mothers, the far more civilized Gabriel attempts to see if he can teach these adult boys how to truly act like people.
There is almost no part of this film that is not absurd, and it’s not as if those creative people behind the film are unaware of that fact. Writer-director Anders Thomas Jensen has written a number of fantastic Danish films, including “In a Better World” and “After the Wedding,” and a few American screenplays such as “The Duchess.” His latest project is most similar to his 2002 collaboration with “An Education” director Lone Scherfig, “Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself,” which presents a different way of looking at the world through the eyes of someone who has never found a place for himself in the world. That’s a fitting inspiration for this film, which finds five people of varying viability for human interaction all cooped up (pun intended) together in one large house.
Mikkelsen is a celebrated actor in Denmark who should also be known to American audiences for “Casino Royale” and for playing the title character in the TV series “Hannibal.” Here, he’s looser and sillier than ever before, leading a cast of actors playing a range of people, some despicable and all misunderstood. It’s a bizarre film more than anything, and the answers it probes for are relatively obvious from the start, which doesn’t detract from the experience and just makes it all the more individualistic. This film isn’t for everyone but it’s certainly something.