Men & Chicken/ Mænd & Høns  is the latest comedy/drama from Danish Writer/Director Anders Thomas Jensen. In this story, brothers Gabriel (David Dencik) and Elias (Mads Mikkelsen) set out to reconnect with some long lost family when it is revealed, after their father’s death, that they were actually adopted. Unbeknownst to them, their journey to reconnect with their family will send them down a most peculiar path filled with chickens, rolling pins, blocks and blocks of cheese, poorly embalmed animals, a small island that’s about to become too small to be listed on a map; and, plenty more chickens for, you know, posterity and whatnot. (And, no. Meals are not lovingly prepared in this film. This is, most definitely, not that. In fact, this may be the very antithesis of that.)
This is the darkest timeline… Men & Chicken will likely elicit very different reactions from different people. While the story is an old premise, old does not mean tired. Jensen’s spin on this story of people coming to terms with their family is a curious tale. The comedy is blacker than the blackest of black holes. The mise-en-scène is unapologetically grotesque. The characters are flawed. The chickens are deformed. And yet, there is beauty in the grotesque and Men & Chicken possesses a lurid magnetism that will, at the very least, be something that sets up camp at the tail end of a Gaussian curve. Whether it’s left or right will depend on your personal tastes. For what it’s worth, to me, watching this film was a hoot. There are scenes in this film that, as I sit here recalling them, will still make me laugh. And this film is crawling with jokes: whether its physical humor, a visual gag or an offhand remark, they all land and even a moment’s distraction could lead to a missed beat because the jokes aren’t precious. They don’t have to be; Jensen is a comedy machine. Other noteworthy things? Mads Mikkelsen’s bum is super pale. I think the concluding sequence might be inspired by a scene from Wild Strawberries . There will be compulsive masturbation. The merits of Einstein’s work is called to question. And after this film, asparagus might put you off for a bit. Take what you will from this.
Each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way… For a film that looks like a disease has permeated its every fiber—where the images are desaturated and the color scheme is a veritable spectrum of beiges, yellows, and browns that are accented by blues and greens that are either too pale or too pigmented—this is, surprisingly, an uncynical story. Amidst the maelstrom of madness, there is pathos. There is eloquence. And there is humanity. “To the deaf, dancing seems crazy,” pleads Elias and he has a point. Life is largely about perspective and Men & Chicken states from the get-go that this is a story about people making the best of the hand of cards they were dealt with. There are big things (like finding a partner) and small things (like who gets the best plate at dinner) and though these men find perplexingly peculiar methods of solving these life problems, this is, of course, the only way they know how to be. It is their nature. And their nature is interesting (to say the least).
Ignorance is (sometimes) bliss… Thus far, if you find yourself intrigued and would like to see this movie, please do yourself a favor and completely bypass the trailer. Before you roll your eyes at me, let me start by saying that I’m somewhat listlessly in the middle of the spectrum when it comes to the trailer debate. Should we or shouldn’t we watch trailers? Does it ruin or augment the experience? I don’t particularly care; there’s a valid argument for both sides. However, having said that, in this specific instance, I’d say that one of this film’s qualities is the element of shock and surprise and the trailer will diminish that. A major propulsive force in this film is a search for the truth. Our main characters’ parents are shrouded in mystery and slowly we learn why. Though I would say that this is only supplemental to watching these characters interact, solving the mystery does play an important role: It provides a framework with which to understand the peculiar things we see. So, for maximum enjoyment, I would suggest foregoing trailers and articles (except mine, which, you’re welcome, is purposefully vague). Instead, pay attention to the characters’ mannerisms and the hints strewn throughout the film that foreshadow the end. It’ll make for a more rewarding experience. (I promise.)