Marking the third of many feature collaborations between director Anders Thomas Jensen and Mads Mikkelsen, Adam’s Apples relies on the comedy that can come from ruthlessly immoral characters. Clashing light and dark together, the two sides of the coin are shown rather clearly. A priest and a neo-Nazi come together through community service; the indifference of a hardened criminal put to the test by a motivated, optimistic man of God. Confrontations are inevitable, but Jensen subverts the expected stylings of this narrative to give odd characters their chance to shine, a film as much about accepting the demons and downpour of life as it is a comedy about engaging with the future and throwing aside the past.
As expected, Mikkelsen is a strong lead here, playing well alongside Ulrich Thomsen’s titular performance. Adam’s Apples wishes to employ a simple narrative of rehabilitation, but soon focuses in on the wrongs of the righteous, and the sudden moral compass of the villainous. The story soon shifts to breaking down a good man, a test of faith not just for Ivan (Mikkelsen), but for those that wish to test his devotion. Jensen captures this with some brilliant moments that muse on the message at hand. Paced with necessary, strong flow, the narrative arcs well and revels in the good craftsmanship, much of which can be observed rather clearly.
Lingering shots pull back from the hallways of God’s house, a collection of troubled individuals find themselves locked within their failings and nightmares. Haunted moments are picked apart often, their bleak lives are a test from God or the Devil, or perhaps it is simply happenstance that they can’t make their way through life without problems plaguing their days. An apple tree under siege from crows, a cooker that continually explodes. Are they signs from the Almighty that they should change their ways? Or is it just a coincidence that the Book of Job presents itself to Adam so often? Both narratives are acceptable conclusions to a great story, and the rehabilitation of bad people is humanised well, engaging with the idea that the rejuvenation of life takes time.
Jensen often mixes dark tragedy with the brighter lights of comedy, and Adam’s Apples works well when the two clash with one another. Much of the humour comes from the mundane way this cast speak of bizarre, circumstantial events. The robber wishing to go home and the hostage-taker that is now on the wagon and learning Danish, a neo-Nazi that wishes to bake a cake. Adam’s Apples works best when its dialogue is light and punchy, masquerading its charms with messages of the dying faith and the rehabilitation of evil. How deep is our love for the person that may not deserve it? Jensen asks and answers with a great, dark comedy.