The Green Butchers

on December 10, 2004 by Tim Cogshell
Danish filmmaker Anders Thomas Jensen is--along with Lars Von Tier and Thomas Vinterberg--a founder of the Dogme 95 movement that eschewed the use of sets and artificial lighting, among other accoutrements of the cinematic arts. It was a bold movement, in many ways akin to the French New Wave and the mold-breaking American indie cinema movement of the mid-'70s. Jensen's new film, "The Green Butchers," is a sort of reverse Dogme movie, set in a slightly surreal world where everyone and everything is just a bit off-kilter. It's the kind of film that calls for the tools of filmmaking in order to achieve its overt ordinariness, which is ironic and a very Danish thing to do.

In any case, Svend (Mads Mikkelsen, "Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself") and Bjarne (Nikola lie Kaas, "Reconstruction") are an odd pairing. Mads is nervous and self-doubting. He has a ridiculous hairline and sweats an enormous amount. Bjarne is a pot-smoking nihilist who tends to kick people who irritate him. They're friends and co-workers at a butcher's shop were they are berated constantly by their overbearing boss, Holger (Ole Thestrup). When they decided to strike out on their own, things go badly at first. But the combination of a freak freezer accident involving a handyman and a bone-saw lead to a major turnaround in business. The customers love the meat and Sven revels in his newfound popularity. There's nothing to do except keep it coming. Fortunately, lots of people tend to wander into freezers. Bjarne does not care for this, but he's dealing with a mentally handicapped twin brother (also played by Kaas) who, until recently, had been in a coma.

Dark comedies about eating people are not as uncommon as one might think. There's the Jean-Pierre Jeunet film "Delicatessen," the Bob Balaban classic "Parents" and, of course, Paul Bartel's "Eating Raoul." The one thing they all have in common is that they exist in a stylized world, and they're funny. So is "The Green Butchers," but both the comedy and the entrées are for select palates. Starring Mads Mikkelsen and Nikolaj Lie Kaas. Directed and written by Anders Thomas Jensen. Produced by Kim Magnusson and Tivi Magnusson. A Newmarket release. Black comedy. Danish-language; subtitled. Rated R for language, disturbing images and drug use. Running time: 95 min

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