Men & Chickens review: incredibly strange people, incredibly strange film

Mads Mikkelsen has never been more repellent than in Anders Thomas Jensen’s wilfully bizarre tale

Nicolas Bro and Mads Mikkelsen in Men & Chicken
Men & Chicken
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Director: Anders Thomas Jensen
Cert: Club
Genre: Drama
Starring: David Dencik, Mads Mikklesen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Nicolas Bro
Running Time: 1 hr 45 mins

Elias (Mads Mikkelsen) has taken a psychotherapist out on a date to mine her for information on a recurring chicken-rape dream, when his dishevelled brother Gabriel (David Dencik) calls to inform him that their father has died. A video the old man recorded tells the siblings that they were adopted. Thus, they set out in search of their biological father, a Danish-Italian geneticist called Thanatos.

Their much-disrupted journey – Elias has a compulsion to masturbate – takes them to a run-down sanatorium, peopled by Franz (Soren Malling), Gregor (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) and Josef (Nicolas Bro). These incredibly strange people appear to be Elias and Gabriel's half-brothers, and Elias, in particular, soon finds a Three Stooges rhythm as the and his long-lost siblings trade blows with enormous metal-bottomed pots and stuffed animals. Even weirder things ensue to the strains of Frans Bak and Jeppe Kaas' discombobulating zither music.

Director Anders Thomas Jensen is best known abroad for his screenwriting collaborations with Oscar-winner Susanne Bier, which makes the wilfully bizarre Man and Chicken all the more difficult to process. Then again, it was never going to be easy. It's The Island of Dr Moreau played for laughs? Really dark disturbing laughs? It's the Marx Brothers with a zoophilic subtext? Well, not subtext exactly.

Mikkelsen, in sharp contrast to his seductive, debonair Hannibal, has never been more repellent. Indeed, on that front, the entire cast acquits themselves with aplomb. The dilapidated location, as prowled by DOP Sebastian Blenkov, is equally disturbing.


Although probably worthy of a spot alongside such freaky arthouse hits as Aleksei Balabanov's Of Freaks and Men or György Pálfi's Taxidermia, the singular Men and Chicken can be exhaustingly, well, Men and Chicken-y.