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Worldwide Watchlist: Denmark

Here at the Yorker we can’t live without new experiences, adventures and discoveries. So why not come along with us on a unique trip: a movie trip, on a quest to establish a Worldwide Watchlist. Every month, writers will present films they love from specific countries. If you would like to share your favorite foreign films with us, email us at film@theyorker.co.uk.

Today, we are travelling to Denmark!

If you think about Denmark and Danish cinema, the first name which crosses your mind would most probably be Lars Von Trier. And I know, you either hate him or love him. But, believe me when I say there is much more out there! So, let me introduce you to another extremely talented Danish director/screenwriter called Anders Thomas Jensen.

Most of the people would be likely to consider Danish films as dark dramas. However, if you take a closer look at how most Danish films work, you will realise that they are also quite funny!
What makes Danish cinema so distinctive is the constant mix of very funny scenes with very dramatic moments. The majority of the following movies are really good fun to watch, as a viewer, you’ll enjoy yourself a lot.

So, lets start your journey to Denmark.



Flickering Lights (Anders Thomas Jensen, 2000)

This film follows the story of four small-time gangsters, Torkild, Peter, Arne and Stefan. They have to hide in a small countryside house after stealing the money of a gangster boss. Their plan to escape to Barcelona changes as they spend weeks in the house which they are dreaming to open as a restaurant later on. However, none can escape from their pasts…

This extremely funny comedy does not operate with the formalities of kindness, it rather, takes us through our depraved, emotionless life routines. Through the worst possible childhood, the characters could ever have, the director creates a moving redemption story without using clichés and being sanctimonious.

The Green Butchers (Anders Thomas Jensen, 2003)

His next film, The Green Butchers (2003) presents the story of two butchers, Svend and Bjarne who decides to start their own business in a small Danish town. After an accident, they have to sell a “different kind” of meat which leads them to great success. As we are dealing with two emotionally damaged protagonists again, it is overwhelmingly hard for them to let their popularity vanish and they keep on enjoying the citizens’ love and passion.

Anders Thomas Jensen has created these psychopathic characters so well that it is literally impossible not to sympathise with them even though the viewer is aware of the fact that they are basically selling human flesh. Yet they can identify themselves with Bjarne or Svend as this dark-comedy makes them understand the heroes’ inscapes. So, it is clear that their cruelty comes from their horrible past and they are taking revenge on the people who have hurt them. The line between light-hearted comedy and drama is just in a perfect balance so the viewers can examine their own empathy through this story, which is not about truth but about redemption.

2005 adams apples 1

Adam’s Apples, (Anders Thomas Jensen, 2005)

Jensen’s latest film, Adam’s Apples (2005) is probably the hardest to categorise. One could interpret it as a grotesque drama or as a black comedy. The film is set in a paradise-like church, which is, in fact full of criminals. As in Denmark people who’ve committed smaller criminal offence are not sent to prisons but to churches to do social works. The two main characters are Adam, the neo-Nazi and the priest, Ivan who is good in an abnormal way, in an almost an “evil way”. Ivan has serious mental illness (again) from which he finds his way out through faith. His faith is almost unbelievable. Adam is the opposite, he is the pure definition of evil and he is constantly trying to break Ivan’s faith in every possible way. However, the core story of the film is much more simple and entertaining with its charismatic and grotesque characters. Adam’s mission is to take care of an apple tree and he use the apples for a pie he will make. While the story explores the true nature of faith, its power and contradictions with a rather wise, deeply-philosophical yet entertaining plot. At a moment you’ll cry of laughter, then you’ll be dazed, then you’ll be thinking and so on. All in all, this amazing film plays with the viewer’s emotions on a wide scale, giving them a unique movie experience, you shouldn’t miss!

What you can also find in all the above-mentioned films is the brilliant Danish actor, Mads Mikkelsen. He is such a charismatic, extremely talented actor that his charm will probably make you want to watch more of his films. I hope you enjoy my selection and goodbye, or Farvel as they would say in Denmark!