This pitch-black Danish comedy touches upon incest, sex addiction, bestiality and vivisection, yet still manages to be disarmingly adorable.
It follows two cleft-lipped brothers, depressive Gabriel (David Dencik) and compulsive masturbator Elias (Mads Mikkelsen, in a role as far from his part as Le Chiffre in Casino Royale as it’s possible to get) as they search for their biological father in deepest, darkest Denmark. The chase leads them to a crumbling sanitarium in a backwater town, where three men – also bearing cleft lips – assault them with a stuffed swan.
It’s part dark fairy-tale (of the Hans Christian Andersen variety), part gothic horror and part absurdist meditation on the role of science and religion in civilised society. Writer/director Anders Thomas Jensen – a two-time Oscar winner, albeit for Best Short Subject and Best Live Action Short – fills his richly textured movie with dozens of apparently throw-away references that only make real sense retrospectively, virtually begging you to watch the film a second time. With its touchingly fragile characterisation and satisfyingly filthy sense of humour, that’s a welcome prospect.