The Art of Cinema, The Art of Cooking

in 15th Kinotavr Open Russian Film Festival

by Nikolaj Nikitin

We all know that there has always been a close connection between the art of cinema and the art of cooking. For both the right ingredients are needed, but also the right amount of them and especially the knowledge of mixture. Some of the most tempting works in the history of film dealt with that topic — including Marco Ferreri’s “La grande bouffe”, Ang Lee’s “Eat, Drink, Man, Woman” and of course Greenaway’s “The Cook, the Thief, his Wife and her Lover”.

Now a new film should be added to that list for its black humor, excellent acting, rather surprising and vivid storytelling, and profound cinematic tools: Anders Thomas Jensen’s “The Green Butchers” (De grønne Slagtere, Denmark 2003). This work impressed the FIPRESCI jury of the 11th International Film Festival in Sochi so much that it was awarded its prize.

Different from earlier years, our jury was only judging the international program, which presented some strong candidates for our prize, and did not consider the films of the Russian festival (which took place almost parallel to the international one).

Jensen, with “The Green Butchers” presenting only his second feature, has already been very successful as a scriptwriter (e.g. “The King is alive”, “Mifune”, “Open Hearts”). The audience really felt that it was watching the work of a director who knows very well what he is doing, not only concerning the script but also handling the actors, supported by a lively and inventive camera and a to-the-point-editing — it felt like eating a superb meal.

Bjarne and Svend are two old friends who work for a butcher and want to open up their own butcher’s shop. Both of them are so full of complexes and problems past and present that they seem more suited to fill daily talk shows than stand behind a counter and sell meat or cut it. But as life sometimes goes, due to an accident they seem to find an ideal ingredient which makes their new shop a town-wide overnight success. Svend especially enjoys being a local VIP – and the resulting female attraction. But problems arise quickly when Bjarne’s twin brother awakens from a coma and the ideal ingredient is running out.

“The Green Butchers” plays wickedly with the audience and presents a surprising end, keeping the viewer’s attention throughout the whole movie. Once again a movie is making a splendid comment on the connection between filmmaking and cooking — it just takes the right ingredients. And for those who still didn’t catch the origin of the ideal ingredient — “It tastes like chicken”.