Males & Chicken — film assessment: ‘Scary, clever’

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 &amp 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.

Section: Arts


A Mom May Not Be A Mom, And Yes, That&#039s Scary

Susanne Wuest plays a mother who has returned home to her children after reconstructive surgery in Goodnight Mommy.

Susanne Wuest plays a mother who has returned house to her youngsters soon after reconstructive surgery in Goodnight Mommy. Courtesy of RADiUS hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of RADiUS

Regardless of whether mummy or mommy, a creature whose face is cloaked in bandages is eerie. So it may well look affordable for twins Lukas and Elias (Lukas and Elias Schwarz) to be distrustful when their mother (Susanne Wuest) returns from the hospital with a wrapped face. As Goodnight Mommy quickly reveals, nonetheless, quite tiny about the physica1ly identical brothers is reasonable.

The trauma that preceded the events of this austere however gruesome thriller can be recounted in a single sentence. But writing that sentence would nullify the movie’s effect. With Goodnight Mommy, summary quickly wanders into spoiler territory.

Likewise, it would be improper to specify exactly what sort of story this is. The clues are there, and numerous viewers will resolve the puzzle ahead of the film divulges the answer, but the narrative ploy is well camouflaged. Like expert conjurers, writer-directors Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala are masters of diversion.

A couple of issues can be disclosed with out threat. The family members lives in a agonizingly spare modernist residence in the Austrian countryside. Mom is a Tv character of some type. Dad is literally out of the picture — photos of him have been removed from the home. The boys are quite close, even though one is the doer and the other the thinker.

It really is summertime, so the children spent a lot of time outdoors. They discover forests and cornfields, and sometimes 1 wears a mask in an uncanny echo of mom’s bandages. Also ominous is their descent into a cavern that turns out to be an ossuary, inhabited by one particular living creature.

Adults are seldom observed and, as might be expected, are largely silly and ineffectual. The only 1 who tries to exercising any authority over the boys is their mother. But her manner has changed so considerably that Lukas and Elias doubt she’s the very same lady she was just before the surgery.

They decide to test her, in scenes that could be seen as allegorical of the way all adolescents investigate their growing energy to defy their parents. The examinations escalate from disturbing to horrific, even though they are presented with a chilliness really unlike the gleeful bloodlust of American slasher flicks.

“Shot on glorious 35mm,” as the movie’s final title boasts, Goodnight Mommy is elegant and luminous. While the story conveys the anxiousness of being unable to trust the most elemental of human bonds, the meticulous compositions contrast alienation and intimacy. Certainly, the filmmakers’ assured style in the end upstages their slender if powerful script.

Veronika Franz is the spouse of director Ulrich Seidl, who created this film, and co-wrote his Paradise trilogy with him Severin Fiala is Seidl’s nephew. But critics have compared Goodnight Mommy much less to Seidl’s perform than to the films of Michael Haneke, yet another Austrian identified for dispassionate gore.

The resemblance is superficial. The dread in Haneke’s motion pictures is existential, reflecting his usually overripe view of the basic injustice of all human life. Based on their debut function, at least, Franz and Fiala do not feel in such grand terms.

Goodnight Mommy is basically a child’s what-if gone amok. What if our mother isn’t our mother? a boy asks, and the idle query is pushed to monstrous lengths. Like most such tales, this a single is chilling but no profound.

Arts &amp Life : NPR