Mænd og Høns (Men and Chicken)

Do people in wheelchairs always interrupt? 

Year Released : 2015men-and-chicken.36041
Director : Anders Thomas Jensen
Cast : Mads Mikkelsen, David Dencik, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Søren Malling  and Nicolas Bro

A few weeks ago I moved to a new area of Leeds (hence a lack of reviews recently as I am STILL sorting out my things), and I recently started attending a cinema that is a 20 minute walk from my house to watch films that aren’t being shown at the ones I work at.

If you’re ever in the Leeds area then I’d recommend a trip to Hyde Picture House. You can find out more information about them and the films that they’re showing on their website.

Whilst this has proven to have mixed results so far as one of the two I’ve watched is currently third in my Top 10 for 2016, and the other is in my bottom 10, I am enjoying the chance to see smaller films in the cinema.

I read the programme of what they have coming on and noticed the name Mads Mikkelsen, one of my favourite actors, and from that point onwards I was sold on the film, even though I had no idea what it was about. It’s very rare I go to a cinema without having a clue what I’m about to watch, but that’s what is about to happen (I write this bit before I watch each film I review).

So can Mads make it a trio of positive reviews of his films for this site (the other two being The Hunt and Valhalla Rising), or will it go the way of a lot of films I’ve reviewed recently and steer well clear of my approval stamp?

Plot

Elias (Mikkelsen) and Gabriel (Dencik) are very different brothers. Elias is a self-obsessed and sexually obsessed person, where Gabriel is fair more practical and has a far more realistic view of the world. One day Gabriel visits their father at the hospital, only to see him die. Gabriel informs Elias and the two discover that their father had left them a video. The pair watch it and discover that he wasn’t actually their biological father, revealing the name of their real father.

Gabriel decides to go in search of his father for answers, and reluctantly agrees to take Elias along with them. When they arrive at the large house on a remote island, they are viciously beaten by three men who eventually turn out to be their half-brothers, Franz (Malling), Josef (Bro) and Gregor (Kaas). The brothers are initially horrified by the animal filled house and Gabriel in particular is frustrated at the three’s insistence that they can’t see their father.

Elias starts forming a relationship with the brothers, but nevertheless agrees to help Gabriel upstairs, but what they discover, followed by a later trip to the basement, raises more questions than answers.

men-chicken

So was it better not knowing the plot going in?

I must admit that if I had read the plot before going in then chances are that I wouldn’t have actually gone to watch it in the first place, but I’m sort of glad I did it this way because “Men and Chicken” is a very enjoyable, if somewhat unusual look at five very different men that are simply trying to find their place in the world.

Let’s start with the story and whilst it might not sound that interesting, there is a genuine level of not really knowing where you’re going to end up. The story keeps evolving as time goes on and that is something that I rarely see in films these days. Often there will be a central plot and it won’t really develop much further, but that’s definitely not an issue for “Men and Chicken,” so much to the point where the title only really takes significant meaning in the final five minutes.

The comedy throughout may not be laugh-out-loud, but it is definitely enough to keep you to the odd chuckle every now and then, but that’s what I like in my comedies, jokes that aren’t obvious. You’ll notice when I eventually get around to my Top 10 of 2016, or indeed the top tens I produced in 2014 and 2015, that not only do I not place many comedies highly, but that I don’t watch many at all, but “Men and Chicken” found the right humour for me.

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Towards the end of the film there is an hilarious scene in which Gabriel has been trying to change the behaviour of his half-brothers by introducing them to the Bible, even though he is atheist himself. The brothers have only ever been exposed to non-fiction books and when reading the story of Abraham and Isaac they sit there summarising why it is ludicrous, rather than simply enjoying it, and the frustration that you feel from Gabriel is genuine and delightful at the same time, especially when you remember the part about him being atheist and a man of science himself.

The acting from all concerned is excellent, and it won’t come as any surprise that I’m about to praise Mikkelsen, who is taking on a very different role from what he normally does. He brings a great depth and level of sympathy to a character that isn’t really that likable, and is actually downright deplorable at times. But for me the highlight comes from the fact that whilst they have a genuine Hollywood star in their cast, the story doesn’t purely focus on him, and each of the characters are given plenty of time to develop, giving the actors concerned a great opportunity to shine.

With five very different characters, you get five very good performances that are very far apart from each other, and for me the surprise came from Nikolaj Lie Kaas, who plays the interesting character of Gregor. Gregor is much like Elias in that he is sexually starved, and he is desperate for love, but he practices by, and there’s no nice way of putting this, having sex with chickens. Much like Elias, you actually get a genuine liking for Gregor because Kaas plays him so well, and with a surprising level of emotional depth.

There aren’t really any negatives I can think of during the film. It kept me interested for 100odd minutes, never felt like it was dragging and just got pretty much everything right.

Mænd og Høns Directed by Anders Thomas Jensen Produced by Tivi & Kim Magnusson M&M Production Photo Credit Rolf Konow

Summary

It’s a rare thing for this site that I review a film that is at the cinema at the time of writing, but when I do they tend to be good, and “Men and Chicken” has continued to the trend. This should be an example to approvedHollywood that you can create a film that has zero special effects and still create a exceptional bit of film.

There is a chance that this will make my Top 10 for the year, so if you get a chance I would definitely recommend it, but be prepared for 100 or so minutes of one of the most unusual plots that you will ever see, especially in the final 20 or so minutes.

 

 

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