You never ever know what will come out of Denmark next. From the turmoils of medieval Elsinore to the chastising vows of Dogme 95 — 1 cleaning out the royals, the other the movie rules — if there’s something rotten in this state it’s not for want of an urge to purge. Cleanse-and-start off-once more fundamentalism is the creed. Probably the Danes believe they can even reinvent the laws of life and procreation. They give it a try in Males & Chicken.
This sly, black comedy-drama from Anders Thomas Jensen, writer-director, serves up awful warnings. The plot has a time-bomb dystopianism. Old mansions include ominous secrets. Nasty issues are seen in storage jars that are not jam or marmalade. And each and every character is conflicted, beginning with the squabbling brothers Elias (Mads Mikkelsen) and Gabriel (David Dencik). Edgy, hare-lipped and emotionally arrested — Elias is a pathological masturbator — they learn a single day that their biological father was, or is, an evolutionary geneticist living on a remote island. Off they go to the island. Roll the plot.
I can’t spoil by saying far more. Adequate to say: this is the land that gave us Danish bacon and Kierkegaard — cured meat and incurable existential angst — and a clammy sense grows that Jensen has taken Kierkegaard’s philosophy of epiphanic doubt and self-doubt and constructed precise scientific grounds for it.
Elias and Gabriel locate far more brothers and a clapped-out property full of laboratory nightmares and proof that this island once resembled, and could nevertheless, a well-known atoll imagined by H.G. Wells. It’s a scary, discomfiting, clever film, challenging to rid from your head as soon as you have noticed it. Very best amongst the actors, all referred to as on to play repelled or repellent, is Mikkelsen. The ex-Bond villain wears a moustache, a Christopher Walken hairdo and a permanent, vulnerable look of spooked expectation. You almost come to really like him: not a typical response to the heroes or antiheroes of New Danish Cinema.