Adam's Apples
R1 - America - Film Movement
Review written by and copyright: James Teitelbaum (13th July 2008).
The Film

Film Movement is a very cool subscription service that sends a new DVD out every month, each containing a complete indie film as well as a short film that often compliments the main feature in some way. "Adam's Apples" (2005) is the fifty-eighth film in the series (it is year 5, film 10).

This Danish film is part Ingmar Bergman and part David Lynch (but not nearly the masterwork that either of those men were/are capable of). "Adam's Apples" is a tense drama about a hopelessly neurotic and terminally ill priest, and his relationship with a neo-Nazi ex-convict. That's the Bergman end. The Lynch aspect comes as director and screenwriter Anders Thomas Jensen relieves the considerable tension with some oddball characters and some genuinely funny moments.

Ivan (Mads Mikkelsen, who you may remember as having played Bond baddie Le Chiffre in "Casino Royale" (2006)) is the priest, an endlessly cheerful fellow who has three ex-convicts in his care. They include the kleptomaniac Gunnar (Nicolas Bro) who is an alcoholic and gluttonus ex-tennis player, Khalid (Ali Kazim), a violent Saudi bank robber, and an 86-year old former concentration camp guard. None of these people like each other, but none of them have anywhere else to go. So they remain in the halfway house run in Ivan's church, deep into farm country.

When Adam (Ulrich Thomsen) arrives, fresh out of prison, he is a brutish skinhead thug, who has nothing but contempt for Ivan and for his fellow ex-cons. He replaces the crucifix on the wall of his room with one of his few possessions: a portrait of Adolph Hitler, and beats up both Ivan and Gunnar. Ivan needs to give Adam some focus and a goal to work towards during his rehabilitation. The irate and downright mean Adam is munching an apple from the church's beloved and famous apple tree, and so he facetiously declares that his goal over the next three months will be to make an apple pie. To his amazement, Ivan takes him seriously and sets him on a path towards that goal. Adam has no interest in making this pie, and is in fact not particularly interested when crows and worms invade the special apple tree. But Ivan uses some reverse psychology and a few careful mind games to try to bring Adam around.

So, we have the set-up for a predictable feel-good movie here, as the kindly Ivan turns the mean ol' Adam into a nice guy. But there is another layer at work that makes this film far more interesting than that. Ivan, as it turns out, is a certifiable lunatic, who lives in a fragile shell of disillusionment in order to keep from completely cracking up. The list of tragedies that has befallen this character is so long that it borders on comical (there's that Lynch thing again), and in order to deal with them, he must retain his cheerful and positive demeanor at all costs. Thus, just as Ivan tries to help Adam, there is a reciprocal at work: Adam will try to break Ivan, for no other reason than because that is the kind of ass that Adam is.

The film gets alternately intense and over the top, alternately heavy and silly. With ten minutes left in the running time, Jensen needed to either have this film turn out dark, or flip it over and close it with a predictable Hollywood-style happy ending. The tipping point happens when a really bad deus ex machina saves a character's life in a manner that will challenge any viewer's ability to suspend disbelief. The same event solves this character's main predicament in life in a completely unbelievable manner. After that comes a scene in which two characters bond, which is ruined by some unbearably schmaltzy music by Jeppe Kaas. Finally, we learn the fates of Ivan and Adam, and without spoiling it too much, I will just say that I believe that neither Lynch nor Bergman would have gone in the whole-heartedly commercial direction that Jensen chose...In other words, this was on track for being a really nice little film, but the last reel sunk it.

This film may still be worth a view, in spite of the disappointing ending, if for no other reason than the performances. All are good to very good, particularly Mikkelsen, who completely dissapears into the role of the twisted and miserable Ivan.

Video

"Adam's Apples" is presented in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is enhanced for widescreen televisions. The film looks good with a deeply saturated color palette and nice blacks. A few tasteful CG effect enhancements are almost seamless. Running time is 1:30:36, divided into 12 chapters.

Audio

Audio is in the original Danish Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, with optional English subtitles. The subtitles are in yellow (good), and are positioned so that they are readable when viewing the film properly on a widescreen television (good). dialogue is fine, but unless you speak Danish, you'll be reading this one anyway. The music of Jeppe Kaas is right up front a lot of the time except when it pauses so that The Bee Gees cover by Take That can function as a repeating motif for two of the characters.

Extras

Film Movement has included a short film, a promotional short, a series of biographies and bonus trailers. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

"Clara" runs for 6 minutes 53 seconds. This month's short film (from Australia) is a stop motion animation by Van Sowerwine about a little girl who is dealing with the loss of her sister. There are also attacking flowers, attacking ants, and self-inflicted burn injuries along the way. The stop motion is very well done, and in general the film seems to have been heavily influenced by the Brothers Quay, except for that it is in color. The ending is a little bit abrupt and not entirely satisfying, but it is a nice little film overall.

Next up is Stella Artois Presents: "Train" which runs for 1 minute, a promotional short. This feature is presented as being sort of an additional short film, but it is really just a beer commercial. The Stella Artois logo has begun to appear on the back of the Film Movement DVD case too. The logo is subtle, and if corporate sponsorship is what is keeping this series going, then at least they are being tasteful about it.

The disc also contains text bios for Anders Thomas Jensen, Ulrich Thomsen, and Mads Mikkelsen.

Finally there's bonus trailers for:

- "Film Movement" spot which runs for 31 seconds.
- "Campfire" which runs for 2 minutes 18 seconds.
- "Marion Bridge" which runs for 1 minutes 57 seconds.

Overall

The Film: C+ Video: A Audio: B Extras: B Overall: B-

 


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