Adam's Apples

Reviewed By Kevin Thomas
Posted 11/08/05 13:03:07

"*Insert pastry joke here*"
5 stars (Awesome)

Odd how you can throw together the exact same ingredients that make Hellboy into a fantastic comic book movie (God, the Devil and Naziís), cook them for a bit longer and come out with a wonderful little Danish comedy drama. Which Iím sure is what the director wanted to do. Without a doubt. At all.

Gunnar is a racist thug who has just been released from jail into the care of the initially pleasant priest Ivan. He soon meets two other past criminals in the priestís care and is amazed by their odd, almost trancelike acceptance of the eccentricities of the priest. The other criminals have histories almost as dark as his; one is a political thief whilst the other a reforming alcoholic with a record of rape, but both appear to have been tamed by Ivanís odd tactics. A throwaway comment during an interview means that Gunnar is set the task of baking an apple cake from the huge and fruitful apple tree outside the church. But Gunnar is increasingly disturbed by the priestís refusal (to the point of self-delusion) to accept that evil exists in the world. Consequently, a war of wits and fists begins as Gunnar tries to convince Ivan that true Evil does exist, and it is inside him.

What starts out as a fairly light hearted comedy where wide-eyed disbelief at the sheer oddness of it all provides the laughs, slowly (and convincingly) evolves into something a fair bit darker as various backstories are filled in and the none-too-subtle symbolism gets more intense (Gunnarís apple tree is plagued by crows before the fruit gets infested with maggots and rots from the inside out, and that is only the start). Soon characters have to face up to their pasts, themselves and, most importantly, their futures. The acting is almost impeccable, and the brooding atmosphere created by the religious overtones and vaguely supernatural goings on is amplified by careful use of light and colour to accurately convey certain moods.

Although the action can seem to drag as the absolute longest possible time is taken between the initial revelation that the vicars eccentricities have dark roots (and their implications) and Gunnar finally doing something about it, it does at least mean that the third act has the huge impact that many films strive for but few achieve (even if it is a bit Shyamalanesque). Crucially, Gunnars inevitable transformation is similarly convincing thanks to the slow plodding of the second act and the (often literal) refusal to pull any punches about his nasty streak and neo-Nazi beliefs. The film also takes a detour when a troubled pregnant woman turns up at the vicarage unsure of what to with her possibly-disabled unborn child. This side-branch is largely irrelevant, but serves as an interesting way to cloud your assumptions about Ivan and is key to illustrating Gunnarís complete underestimation of how much the other criminals depend on Ivan for support as a guard against themselves.

The translation from Danish does the job (even if the unfortunate fact that ĎThe Book of Jobí appears in a Danish bible as ĎJobís Bogí causes unintentional hilarity), so everything is easy to follow. It is worth noting that the translation even competently manages to present that one character is supposed to have a poor grasp of English (so the translation can sometimes be intentionally poor).

Everyone loves having a little piece of foreign cinema to champion, but it is brilliant when a film comes along that is entirely deserving of the praise. Adamís Apples is simply beautiful cinema that blends honesty, wit and powerful symbolism into a wonderful film. It always manages to walk the fine line between having a message and preaching a message while (usually) keeping maintaining interest (through a mix of humour and intrigue being played out by a mix of genuinely interesting characters. Definitely worth tracking down and catching if you can.

© Copyright HBS Entertainment, Inc.