Go-to screenwriter for the Dogma 95 collective, Danish writer-director Anders Thomas Jensen hits a decidedly sour note with Adam’s Apples, a tongue-in-cheek parable about redemption, unselfishness, and faith that’s based on the Book of Job. One knows this last fact because Jensen has reprobate neo-Nazi Adam (Ulrich Thomsen) literally inform reverend Ivan (Mads Mikkelsen) that the man of the cloth is Job, a bit of narrative obviousness that epitomizes this creaky lesson in turn-the-other-cheek Christian benevolence. Released from prison into Ivan’s care, Adam hangs a portrait of Hitler on his wall, but those darned church bells routinely cause the picture to fall (tee hee!). When asked by Ivan to choose and then accomplish a life goal, Adam facetiously replies that he wants to bake an apple cake, a reply that the blissfully upbeat cleric takes at face value, placing Adam in charge of tending to the parish’s bountiful apple tree. The tree soon reflects Adam’s rotten core, becoming infested with crows and worms before being struck by lightning, with Jensen’s portentous God’s-eye-view zooms and camera pull-backs inharmoniously commingling with his efforts at humor involving Ivan’s dogged cheer and Adam’s two fellow workers, a Pakistani named Khalid (Ali Kazim) who speaks in broken Danish and robs gas stations as an act of political protest, and an overweight rapist named Gunnar (Nicolas Bro). Adam believes he’s evil while Ivan is convinced that his life’s never-ending hardships—a cerebral palsy-afflicted son, his wife’s suicide, the beatings Adam gives him—prove that he’s at war with the Devil. Unlike many of his previous efforts, Jensen here treats his characters as one-note stick figures, sculpted only as mouthpieces for rude one-liners and vehicles for imparting morals. As a result, Adam’s Apples is both too flippant to be moving as a spiritual allegory and too clumsy and unfunny to succeed as a deadpan comedy, its momentarily amusing moments, such as Khalid getting trigger-happy with Adam’s skinhead friends, overshadowed by its glib, pseudo-shocking treatment of sexual abuse, xenophobia, the handicapped and the Holocaust, and finally drowned out by its fundamentally tedious simplicity.
- Outsider Pictures
- 91 min
- Anders Thomas Jensen
- Anders Thomas Jensen
- Ulrich Thomsen, Mads Mikkelsen, Nicolas Bro, Paprika Steen, Ole Thestrup, Ali Kazim
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