Men & Chicken, 2015.
Directed by Anders Thomas Jensen.
Starring Mads Mikkelsen, David Dencik, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Soren Malling and Nicolas Bro.
Two outcast brothers, through getting to know their unknown family, discover a horrible truth about themselves and their relatives.
Pushing the concept of dysfunctional family through an outlandish filter, Men & Chicken is all in terribly bad taste. Yet, this is a strangely affectionate film—impressive, considering its casual bestiality. Despite running the risk of hotchpotch Anders Thomas Jensen’s screenplay is executed brilliantly, seamlessly moving from slapstick to tragic whilst effectively blurring the lines between cartoonish and pitch-black comedy. It’s a compelling watch.
A fairytale feel intro anticipates an unusual story, and mystery is swiftly afoot as brothers Elias (a barely recognisable Mads Mikkelsen) and Gabriel (David Dencik) find out that their real father is a mysterious 100-year-old scientist, living on the remote Island of Ork. Gabriel, deeply ashamed of his compulsive masturbator brother, reluctantly allows Elias to join him in travelling to find the man they learn the locals refer to as the Sausage of Death on account of all his partners dying in childbirth. It’s just a shame that the facially disfigured, violent brothers they find living in squalor won’t allow them to see him, while guarding a sealed-off section of the house.
What really drives the funniness of this story is the decision for the actors, all strong, to largely play it straight. There is some campy gusto in the depiction of social anxiety and violence, but this smartly skirts the line so that the characters don’t quite hit over-the-top slapstick (indeed the violence becomes slightly disturbing). This makes for some laugh-out-loud funny moments, for instance a deadpan Bible reading that equates God’s communications with schizophrenia, while a stairlift race against the clock adds a delightfully absurd thriller element.
The effect of this carefully calculated balance is that Men & Chicken unfolds to become more complex than it at first appears, subplots of incestuous desire and the aforementioned bestiality neatly tied together as the grotesque raison d’être is revealed in measured pace. When it comes, there is a surprising sadness for these social misfits’ predicament and Gabriel’s self-loathing and denial of his lineage, but the comedy sweeps back in to cement familial loyalty by way of the realisation of a shared cleft palate. So very daft yet simultaneously tender. The film finishes with the fairytale fashion in which it begins, the conclusion happy for the brothers, while retaining the darkness behind their existence. Men & Chicken comes highly recommended.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
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