The Green Butchers (De Grønne Slagtere)

Song of the Day: ‘Death’ by Made in Heights

De Gr¿nne Slagtere

Not knowing what to do with myself on a Saturday evening, after having spent the afternoon in bed sick and feeling sorry for myself, I decided to entertain myself with a movie.

Anywho, if you have ever seen a Scandinavian movie, you already know that they usually tend to be on the more morbid end, but this movie The Green Butchers is plain weird.

I was on Skype right before I started watching the movie. I mentioned to G., in response to his ‘what are your plans’ question, that I planned to watch it. His summary of the movie was: ‘It’s funny, but kind of weird.’ He’s right – it is funny but it is also very weird.

The Green Butchers, a movie by Anders Thomas Jensen, is a pitch-dark comedy that teeters between horror and hilarity. Twisted with both the morbid and amusing it has a distinct taste and is well worth digging into, if you’ve got the stomach for it.

Sick of being pushed around by their tyrannical boss, Svend and Bjarne decide to start their own organic butcher shop. Unfortunately they get off to a rough start and business is less than spectacular. But after accidentally locking a visiting electrician in the freezer overnight, Svend is left with a frozen body on his hands … and a gruesome opportunity. Soon business takes off and locals are lining the street for their new mystery dish, but the two friends are left wondering how they’ll continue to meet demand.

Soon after, their marinated meat is the town’s favorite and slowly, people passing by the butcher shop disappear one by one. Like other cannibal films, The Green Butchers reminds us that we are animals, and though usually at the top of the food chain, we too can become a food source. This is, of course, black comedy à la the style of Delicatessen and The Quiet Family. However, unlike the excessive visual feast of the former and the violent comedy of the latter, this Danish film is calm and methodical. It shows how easy it is to become a connoisseur of human flesh. If you think about it, a cannibal isn’t necessarily a sick freak, it could be considered an act of love.

In political terms, the movie seems refreshingly unorthodox, but considering the male-fantasy aspects of its denouement, this might be pure machismo. Jensen clearly disdains the PETA-style dogma espoused by the likes of Jessica Biel, who said whilst she was promoting The Texas Chainsaw Massacre that violence against people doesn’t bother her nearly as much as violence against animals (let’s see her shout that from the rooftops of Rwanda), a privileged delusion that ranks right up there with Shannon Elizabeth buying up all that scarce Ciprol during the Anthrax scare just in case her canine accessory ever got exposed. Not only does Jensen inhibit schadenfreude by making none of the homicides inThe Green Butchers even remotely justifiable (confining our laughter to Svend’s callousness and Bjarne’s exasperation), but he also gives the avatar for animal activism, Bjarne’s twin brother Eigil, a severe mental handicap, in addition to a back story that finds him sacrificing almost his entire family – including Bjarne’s wife – to save a deer.

Though the complete absolution of Svend and Bjarne is morally repugnant, the chef getting away clean is part and parcel of the lawless kick promised by cannibal comedies. Besides,The Green Butchers isn’t a cautionary tale, but rather a nihilistic lesson in the importance of morale; punishing our two heroes with incarceration or the equivalent would simply be in a different kind of bad taste by letting rubbernecks off the hook. Ultimately, it’s a weirdly mawkish bit of misogyny that demonstrates how unominous the lack of repercussions is by leaving the far more  unpleasant aftertaste: Bjarne’s harried girlfriend joins a sun-dappled tableau with Bjarne, Svend and Eigil, having apparently drawn the conclusion that life with two murderers (one of whom tried to kill her) and a retarded manslaughterer is better than spinsterhood. In so doing, she becomes just another tasty-looking chickie-wickie.

As strange as it might sound, I hadn’t laughed as much as I did whilst watching this movie. It is so well-written!

In a sentence: Denmark may not have any Coen brothers, but it does have one Anders Thomas Jensen.

Till Next Post!

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