TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL 2021 REVIEW! Frustrated white men rebel against society in Thomas Daneskov’s darkly comedic Wild Men. That premise may automatically induce a groan in our woke times, but don’t fret – Daneskov avoids glamorizing his male heroes, portraying them as confused, shunned, forlorn, sometimes violent, and rather pathetic. But the film is not a mere indictment, the filmmaker imbuing the twisty, frosty plot with a tongue-in-cheek, distinctly Fargo-esque vibe.
Martin (Rasmus Bjerg) lives alone in the Norwegian mountains, like a Viking. Well, he tries. It’s been a whole ten days since he eloped. He listens to music in his headphones. Although he wears layers of fur and attempts to hunt goats with a bow and arrow, a visit to the local gas station shop soon becomes necessary. Problem is, Martin has no money, and the bewildered young man at the counter won’t accept his axe and deerskin.
In the meantime, a trio of drug smugglers smashes their car into a moose in a brilliantly orchestrated, horrific moment. The driver, Musa (Zaki Youssef), stumbles away from the scene of the crime, clutching a bag full of cash. Deep in the woods, he meets Martin, who stitches up the nasty wound on Musa’s leg and agrees to help him get to the ferry. Unbeknownst to them, the other two drug smugglers – both psychotic killers – are alive and on their trail, as well as a local cop, and later, Martin’s wife. “Either he’s lost his marbles, or he’s in a gang of international drug runners,” the cop concludes to the horrified woman.
Daneskov casts an ironic gaze at humanity’s need for isolation in the age of technology and potential global societal collapse. Martin and Musa come upon a Viking village in the middle of nowhere, wherein men and women immerse themselves into what somewhat could a “natural way of life,” living off the food they cook, building their own homes, donning Viking garb. But the illusion is quickly shattered when Martin is asked whether he wants to use Visa or Mastercard to pay for the roasted pork loin, and it’s revealed that the so-called Viking leader owns an electric Beemer and uses an iPhone.
“…two drug smugglers…are alive and on their trail, as well as a local cop, and later, Martin’s wife…”
What drives us to seek isolation, and why men specifically? Martin waxes poetic to Musa about Man’s inherent need to be alone, stemming back generations when women used to protect and raise children while men wandered off into the wilderness to hunt. Is there truth to his theory? And is it possible to be truly alone these days?
By pairing these lost souls on the run from themselves, Daneskov raises intriguing questions, each of his characters representing a facet of masculinity. Men are sadistic creatures, like the thugs pursuing our heroes; they constantly seek salvation, like the cop whose wife passed away; men are weak and insecure, but they can also be loyal and kind, like our two hapless heroes.
Existential contemplations aside, Wild Men is primarily a comedy and a side-splitting one at that. Whether it’s Martin throwing away their possessions into a river, threatening local cops with his bow and arrow, or confronting the aforementioned Viking villagers, Rasmus Bjerg holds it all together like glue with his deadpan demeanor. There’s a real warmth to the relationship between the two protagonists.
The filmmaker confidently guides us to a conclusion that really isn’t a conclusion at all but a new beginning. These men may not be all that wild, but Daneskov’s film is just loopy and daring enough to qualify as such in the best way possible.
Wild Men screened at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival.
"…filmmaker imbuing the twisty, frosty plot with a tongue-in-cheek, distinctly Fargo-esque vibe"