Sunday, July 15, 2007

ADAM'S APPLES


ADAM’S APPLE (“Adams æbler” 2005, Denmark/Germany, Anders Thomas Jensen)
I want to go some place where people die when they are sick, and don't sit in the yard eating cowboy toast when they have been shot through the head.

I’ll say this: it’s the funniest movie I've seen for a very long time. I haven’t laughed so hard in years and years. I’ll also say this: if you find it as funny as I did, I don't want you anywhere near my loved ones. I’ll also say this: it’s as theologically stimulating, baffling, transgressive, paradigm inverting, idiosyncratic, theologically gutsy and – just maybe – spiritually significant a movie as almost any I've seen. Ever.

Adam is a very nasty neo-Nazi whose prison release requires a community service stint at a rural church. At first he can’t believe his luck: the “Put on a happy face” pastor overseeing his rehabilitation lets him name his own terms, and appears quite content with Adam’s suggestion that he need only bake an apple pie before being released back into society. When a series of wildly improbable quasi-Biblical plagues afflict the parish apple tree, preventing completion of what ought to have been dead-easy penance, Adam takes it upon himself to confront the insanely optimistic preacher’s galling naivete with ever-increasing doses of harsh reality.

There’s a “Book Of Job” throughline and (therefore) lots to unpack about the ultimate source of the plagues that beset us. There’s clever riffing on everything from “first Adam / second Adam” (and I suppose third Adam?) to the Bible’s various trees (we’re talking Eden and Golgotha), and a considerable amount of “I can’t believe I’m laughing at this” random cruelty and wanton bad behaviour.

At a certain point the basic psychological survival mechanism of good old-fashioned denial crosses into delusional madness: in ADAM’S APPLES, the “Always look on the bright side” philosophy of Pastor Ivan has definitely gone way past that point. There can also be a very porous border between madness and sanctity: I’m thinking Saint Francis and his buddies here – more FRANCIS, GOD’S JESTER, not so much BROTHER SUN, SISTER MOON. It seems pretty clear that Anders Thomas Jensen’s outrageously black comedy is quite convinced that faith – at least, Ivan’s extreme “Don’t worry, be happy” brand of faith – is foolishness: the question you’ll have to decide for yourself is whether the man might possibly be a holy fool, or just your plain old garden variety fool. This sly religious parable is canny enough, artful enough, and respectful enough of it’s audience to leave plenty of room for either reading.

And regardless of where you come down, I can promise you this: you’ll never hear How Deep Is Your Love the same way again.

FLOWERS OF SAINT FRANCIS, ORDET, DOGVILLE, FORREST GUMP, THE MAN WITHOUT A PAST


Film Movement has slated a North American DVD release for late 2007! Which means it may even end up in your local video store sooner or later, just like HAWAII OSLO did. Meanwhile you can order a copy (fully equipped with English subtitles, though on a Region 3 disk - most players, especially in computers, will handle that with no problem) from this Danish DVD distributor for a paltry 59.95 Kroner - something like $11.64 Canadian! (Though there's no telling what the postage will come to). I couldn't manage to figure out how to log into the site to order myself a copy, not speaking a whole lot of Danish, but if anybody has the requisite skills to help me out, I'll be buying it in a flash. A movie I must see again, and show all my most twisted friends.

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