Year Released: 2010
Directed by: Henrik Ruben Genz
Starring: Jakob Cedergren, Lene Maria Christensen, Kim Bodnia, Lars Brygmann
(Not Rated, 102 min.)
"God made the country, man made the city, but the devil made the small town." anonymous
This backwater town, with its seedy eccentrics and bleak brick storefronts, proves there still is something rotten in the state of Denmark even without its indecisive prince. The new marshal, already damaged goods, finds his job about as futile as herding cats, and these critters are feral all right, all teeth and claws, except for a few seductive meows that prove equally lethal.
But the town of Skarrild, despite its location on Denmark’s South Jutland, has a distinct American feel. Maybe that’s why Hollywood is rumored to be buying the rights to this foreign import, but if that translation fits what they did to Germany’s Mostly Martha, which lost considerable vigor when it became the bland No Reservations, or Le Femme Nikita (“an absolute classic”) as it morphed into the American The Point of No Return(“cheesy, ridiculous”), then I’d advise you to see this Danish export and skip what violations Hollywood plans to inflict on it.
Part of the American feel of the film is a self-conscious Western one. The head villain, wife-beating Jorgen (Kim Bodnia) wears a white cowboy hat -- an ironic violation of the bad guys wear black ones rule – and he even accents it with a string tie with, if I’m seeing things rights, is clasped with what looks for all intents and purposes like a Texas longhorn.
The barroom is the center of activity; all the locals have their very own reserved seats, and even a funeral reception is held there. Not to mention the drinking contest between Jorgen and the marshal, a kind of alcoholic shootout with liquid rather than lead shots, but more than enough to be lethal if we are being realistic about the amount of alcohol consumed. But the booze fest is lethal in its own way, even if one case is more subtle than the other.
Then we have the fierce independence of the townsfolk who ignore and punish crime with casual malice and the repeated mantra: “That’s the way we do things here.”
Whether it is dispensing raw justice to the adolescent soda thief – a cuff in the face – or ignoring far worse transgressions by Jorgen, a much more formidable target. So when they hear the squeaky wheels of the phantom baby buggy young Dorthe (Mathilde Maack) parades through the dark streets when Mommy is getting bloodied up by Daddy, the locals lift their drinks and pretend they hear nothing.
And then there’s the ubiquitous card game. Sure, it’s not high stakes poker played by slick cardsharps, con men, and drunken cowhands, but the players are equally flawed. There’s Dr. Zerleng (Lars Brygmann) who correctly labels himself the town quack and is quick to dispense his happy pills to Ingelise (Lene Maria Christiensen) as he patches up her bloodied face rather than do anything to stop her abuse. The local grocer has a dark closet where teenage “Klepto” awaits justice each time he stuffs some Danish fizz under his coat. And our kindly cleric can’t even summon up a few words of Christian charity when he lays his latest to rest, almost with a sense of relief. “She was always an outsider. She never really fit in here.”
Of course, our new Sheriff Robert (Jakob Cedergren) is no Gary Cooper or Clint Eastwood, the lonely exile who comes to clean up a corrupt town. He has his own troubled past and is relegated to sunless Skarrild as a kind of penance. And in him, the compromised leading man, and Ingelise, the femme fatale, we have the noir elements that round out our tale. She vamps into the marshal’s office to report her husband’s abuse, but seems more concerned with pulling down her blouse to reveal the scars on her tender white skin.
You can almost feel the pull of her sexual magnetism on the weak lawman. He fights against it, focusing on the scar and not the skin, but as sure as the setting sun, we know he will go down, and quickly at that.
Yes, he is sucked down almost as quickly as the assorted debris in the local bog at the outskirts of town. Whether it is the two headed cow, the long rubber boot, or the derelict auto or human, the bog will have them. The muck may be brown and oozing or merely metaphysical, but it will pull them down to its hungry maw nevertheless.
Yet there is a kind of poetry in this plunge, a justice in the self-destructive descent that is as old as man’s ancient fall from grace.
Following a funeral for one of the town’s residents, everyone adjourns, not to the church basement or the home of the bereaved, but to the local bar. Instead of the usual assortment of beers and mixed drinks, the wooden tables are decked out with a beautiful array of Danish cakes and pastries, creating an air of warmth and cordiality.
But don’t be taken in by the gleaming icing and sweet aromas. The atmosphere is just as apprehensive and territorial as usual, the tension so thick you can cut it along with the layered cake.
But you are just a visitor here, not one of the strange residents whose existence is bound by gray skies, bleak brick buildings, and a ravenous bog on the outskirts of town.
You are free to leave this place as soon as the credits roll, but take a few minutes to help yourself to one of their delicacies, these light and delicious Danish Butter Cookies smothered in powdered sugar.
You may like these two additions from the Danish smorgasbord to go along with them.
Danish Butter Cookies
- 1/2 lb butter
- 3 cups flour
- 1 3/4 cups pecans, chopped
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- powdered sugarDirections
- Preheat Oven to 325°.
- Cream together butter and sugar.
- Add flour gradually.
- Add pecans and vanilla.
- Dough will be very dry but will form a ball
- as your hand warms the butter while forming small
- crescents or"football" shapes.
- Place on ungreased cookie sheets.
- Bake about 30 minutes or until golden brown.
- When cool, roll in powdered sugar.
Recipe Source: Recipezaar.com