The Green Butchers Anders Thomas Jensen

The Green Butchers Anders Thomas Jensen
We've come to expect certain things from films about cannibalism. We have low budget, high-gore zombie movies (Cannibal Ferox), high camp (Cannibal: The Musical) and high energy, black comedy (Delicatessen). We don't expect a sweet, subtle film about loneliness, friendship and forgiveness. The Green Butchers defies simple categorisations. Despite scenes of corpses on meat hooks and limbs in the "bone crusher," this is not broad comedy. It is, however, very funny, strange, slightly grotesque and immensely satisfying. After years of working for the tyrannical Holger, Svend (Mads Mikkelsen) and Bjarne (Nicolaj Lie Kass) open up their own butcher shop. They have a very slow start but are soon overrun with eager customers. Everyone wants "chick-wickies," a secret recipe devised after an electrician is accidental frozen to death in the meat locker and Svend panics when Holger arrives looking for chicken for a rotary dinner. Svend is a nervous (he is often taunted with the name "Sweaty Svend"), paranoid man obsessed with meat and desperate for acceptance. The fact that he is torn by his heinous act of passing off human flesh as chicken and the success this delicacy brings is strangely heart-warming. Bjarne, who has spent years isolating himself from others, is awoken to the world around him by his mentally handicapped, vegetarian, very demanding brother Eigil (also played by Nicolaj Lie Kass) waking up from a coma. For Bjarne (and the entire film, for that matter), this is more emotionally pivotal than the cannibalism. Director Anders Thomas Jensen uses muted colours — mainly greens and browns — to provide a consistent tone. This helps contain the elaborate storylines in a trim, precise film. His actors approach the material in the same way. We might expect Svend to burst with nervous energy and psychosis but Mikkelsen keeps him rigid (and sweaty), only his constant chatter and darting eyes gives him away. This is one time that I won't complain about a lack of DVD extras (there are none, not even a collection of "coming soon" reels). You don't really need anything else. The Green Butchers reminds you of the simple pleasures of a beautifully shot, well acted, well laid out, thoughtful film, not to mention a good dose of cannibalism. (Mongrel Media)