Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Adams aebler / Adam’s Apples (Denmark, 2005)

“Adam, this makes no sense at all. I am a man of science, I believe in numbers and charts. Goddamnit, I wanna go someplace, 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.”

OK, I’ll admit it: I’m a radical atheist. When I grew up, while everyone else had O.J. Simpson as their hero and role model, I had Madalyn Murray O’Hair—God rest her soul. As far as I’m concerned, God—under any name—doesn’t exist; The Bible is not the word of "God" but the word of a bunch of seriously questionable weirdoes, some more intelligent than others, that have hoodwinked a lot people to think that they had a direct line to "the Creator"; and Mary was less a virgin than the world’s first and best used car salesperson—which, in turn, expresses what I think when it comes to whose son Jesus was.
With this in mind, it's easy to understand why one of the worst cinematic experiences I ever had was Lar von Trier's Breaking the Waves (1996 / trailer), which had me gagging in the theatre—although, in truth, I do like Carl Theodor Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928 / trailer), from which Trier borrows the last shot in his film (of bells ringing in heaven). It is also the reason why I chose not to see Mel Gibson's The Passion of Christ (2004 / trailer), despite it being recommended to me by numerous people as the best gore film of that year. (Were Gibson ever to remake Schindler’s List [1993 / trailer], however, I might go and see it.) OK, it didn’t stop me from seeing the depressing Uruguayan film El bãno del Papa / The Pope's Toilet (2007 / trailer), but in that case not only did the film’s country of origin outweigh the film’s topic when it came to piquing my interest, but the film proved to be subtly critical of the Pope's distance to social realities. Still, given a choice, if a film is about religion, I tend to leave it to others—much as I do lesbian porno films.
Thus, as one might surmise, had I known that Adam's Apples was a pro-religious track, it would have probably never found its way into my DVD player. But stuck as it was between two other horror films (My Bloody Valentine's Day [2009 / trailer] and Perkin's 14 [2009 / trailer]) on a DVD lent to me by a co-worker of the aunt of a friend of my neighbor’s sister, I naturally assumed it would be yet another celluloid fountain of blood. Well, for the most part I was completely wrong—and luckily, if you ask me, for religion be damned: Adam's Apples is a darn-tooting cool film! But then, perhaps that was to be expected, seeing that the previous film written and directed by Anders Thomas Jensen, the writer and director of Adam's Apples, was the off-the-wall Danish flick The Green Butchers (2003 / trailer).
Adam's Apples tells the tale of a Nazi skinhead asshole—are there any other type?—named Adam (Ulrich Thomsen) who gets sent to the rural church of the county pastor Ivan (Mads Mikkelsen) for some community service. Ivan is all smiles and sunshine, incapable of seeing the bad in life—to the point of being seriously disconnected with reality. Outside the church is a large and fecund apple tree, and in an early exchange between Ivan and Adam about what the violent-prone Adam should do during his time there, Adam sarcastically states he wants to bake an apple pie. Ivan takes him for his word, assigning Adam an apple pie as his task, and from then on the tree seems doomed as it is befallen first by ravens, then by worms, and finally by lightening. Day in and day out Adam awakens to the noise of his picture of Hitler falling from the wall and the Bible sliding onto the floor and opening to The Book of Job with a thud. The more he is confronted with Ivan’s blind optimism, the more he is driven to destroy Ivan's view of the world. But even as he succeeds, the surreally black and humorous events that lace daily life begin to get to him, causing him (perhaps for the first time in his life) to question things...
His skinhead friends show up on the scene not once but twice, the second time resulting in what should be a (bloody) tragedy, but wait! Miracles do happen...
Adam's Apples is an at times politically incorrect but pro-faith film cleverly disguised as an insane horror farce. For much of the film, the viewer is as lost as Adam, unsure whether what is happening on film is really happening or whether someone slipped some hallucinogen in the beer. A well-acted black comedy, the events and dialog are often so dry and odd that one is unsure what the fuck the film is actually about; the occasional scenes of violence are not exactly timid, but with exception of one shocking scene, Adam's Apples is anything but a splatter film.
Absurd, brutal, life-affirming, depressing, funny, surreal, weird—these and other such adjectives are applicable to more than one scene in the movie, often all at the same time. And as a result of the thorough strangeness of the film and events it shows, the occasional lapses in logic—no police, a skinhead who gets shot in the back a couple of times and still walks away, a huge church with a congregation of only the film’s characters, etc—end up hardly being noticeable. The last scene, which involves the shared enjoyment of Take That's version of "How Deep Is Your Love" does sort of take some of the fun away, but within the context of the film the event reflects the most logical conclusion. Redemption, after all, is there for those who want it.
In short: Fans of filmic oddities like Delicatessen (1991 / trailer), Siam Sunset (1999) or Pep Squad (1998 / trailer) or will probably find this relatively excellent film right up their alley, but if you’re more The Ten Commandments (1956 / trailer) type, you might rather watch a lesbian porno flick.

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