"How deep is your faith"
by Annika Pham
15/05/2006 - 2005 was a year of celebration for Anders Thomas Jensen. At home Adam's Apples [trailer, film focus], his third 'buddy movie' after Flickering Lights (2000) and The Green Butchers [trailer] (2003) starring the nation's hottest actors Mads Mikkelsen and Ulrich Thomsen won over the hearts of 360,000 Danes, it was hailed Best Film at the local Oscars (Roberts Awards – see news) and the director was awarded the prestigious Nordic Film Prize. Abroad, Adam's Apples won Audience Awards in Hamburg, Sao Paolo, Reykjavik and Warsaw and was Denmark's entry for Best Foreign Language Film at Hollywood's Academy Awards. Now the film with its universal themes of good against evil, faith and redemption is going to try to win over europeans audiences.
The tone is set from the very first scene of the film: Adam (the shaved Ulrich Thomsen with tattoos covering his arms), a neo-Nazi gets off a bus that brought him to the picture perfect countryside vicarage where he has to do community service, and the first thing he does is to viciously scratch the vehicle at knife point. Under Ivan's care (Mads Mikkelsen), the priest in charge of his and two other ex cons' rehabilitation – a kleptomaniac alcoholic accused of sexual assault (Nicolas Bro), and a psychotic Arab immigrant who robs gas stations to protest against multinationals (Ali Kazim), Adam is asked to set a goal for himself. His sarcastic answer "to bake an apple pie" is taken seriously by the priest who puts him in charge of taking care of the beautiful apple tree shading the vicarage until the fruits have ripened. As the tree is successively attacked by worms, black birds and lightning, Ivan says it is the Devil testing his faith, but for Adam – who cites the Bible’s Book of Job – it is God permitting Satan to put Ivan’s virtue to the test.
Ulrich Thomsen plays to perfection the sadistic and violent Adam, on a mission to destroy Ivan. But as the only person with a grasp on reality, once confronted with his own evil doing, he is ultimately transformed into a good human being. Mads Mikkelsen is equally convincing as the eccentric priest who hides behind denial (of his wife's suicide, of his son's cerebral palsy) to be able to continue to live his life. The rest of the pathetic caricature-like characters played by Nicolas Bro, Ali Kazim, Ole Thestrup – the doctor who tells the most terrible stories and shows no emotions whatsoever to any of his patients – and Paprika Steen, the pitiful alcoholic Sarah who gives birth to a child with Down syndrome, make up the filmmaker's world of misfits. A world where the limits between real and surreal, sanity and insanity no longer exist, but where humour prevails and optimism wins. The happy ending with the two 'heroes' listening to the Bee Gees' song 'How deep is your love' is the icing on the cake for a tasteful farce that places Anders Thomas Jensen on the map of talented Danish directors ready to explode internationally.