It was about a year and a half ago that I stumbled upon a little movie called The Green Butchers. When I got home to watch it I realized not only was it subtitled but that it was in a language I didn’t recognize. So I looked it up and realized it was Danish. I put the movie back on and loved every minute of it. And that is how I discovered Danish cinema. This particular movie was written and directed by Anders Thomas Jensen, who it turns out is probably the most prolific writer in Denmark. Seriously, since 1996 he’s written, or somehow been involved, in over 40 films. If you research the most popular Danish films, within the country and internationally, his name is probably involved. Interestingly, however, he’s only directed 3 films: Flickering Lights (2000), The Green Butchers (2003) and Adam’s Apples (2005).
And who else is involved with all 3 films? Mads Mikkelsen. You may know him better as Le Chiffre. He is also a prodigy of Danish film, showing up in almost every notable one. Another guy who seems to be popping up a lot (he’s also in all of Jensen’s films) but hasn’t appeared to jump into Hollywood is Nikolaj Lie Kaas (don’t ask me how to pronounce it). But anyway, getting back to Jensen, he’s a great filmmaker. I haven’t seen all of the films he’s written yet, but he seems to be a major part of a burst of black humor (sometimes) action films.
Maybe I’m partial, but my favorite of his is The Green Butchers. I won’t try to spoil it, but the basic plot is about these two butchers, Mikkelsen and Kaas, who decide to open their own shop. Mikkelsen is Svend, an overcompensating, insecure guy with highly active sweat glands. Kaas is Bjarne, he’s quiet, introverted and constantly stoned. Svend is the butt of their former bosses jokes and he wants to show him that he can be a great butcher. Svend accidentally locks their electrician in the freezer and the next day when his former boss comes to “try the goods” he makes the rash decision to cut up the frozen body and give it to his boss in order to ruin his dinner party. Turns out they love it! And the town can’t get enough of their “chickies.” It may not sound too original but it isn’t really this plot that makes the film a masterpiece, in my opinion. There’s a few subplots going on with Svend and Bjarne and the performance these two guys give are phenomenal. Jensen is also a genius with the camera and creates a beautiful picture inundated with subtlety. The colors are bright and sharp and the picture is framed tightly and neatly. Flickering Lights and Adam’s Apples are made the same way. They all seem clean and crisp and it’s really refreshing.
Jensen doesn’t appear to have any directorial efforts in the pipeline, which is curious becuase he’s so great. Of course he has his hand in writing a bunch of future works but those films don’t always capture his essence. That’s not to say that some of them aren’t great. The one’s I’ve seen so far are excellent in their own right. I just seem to connect with his vision more than others’. The reason I’m writing about this today is that the past few weeks I’ve been trying to get my hands on any Danish film I can. Well the ones Netflix has, at least. I’ve researched what I can about Jensen, Mikelssen, Kaas and other people involved in the few I’ve already seen and I’ve decided to pretty much blow through all I can in the coming weeks. It may seem strange but I like to have a plan of what movies to watch. You know like ‘oh I’ve never seen all of Altman’s films, so I’ll watch all of those now.’ It just gives me a plan, where I don’t really have to think so much about what I’m going to watch tonight. Instead of having endless possibilities, I only have a few. So today I’ve documented my love for Jensen and The Green Butchers, in particular, but I plan to come back and give you the lowdown on the progress I make.
But please let me know if you’ve seen any Danish films, if you’re into the scene or if you’re interested in listening (or seeing) me ramble on about the subject in the future. Seriously. I don’t know anyone who is into or knows anything about Danish cinema so I’d love to hear and speak to some people who are. So until next time!
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