Anders Thomas Jensen’s self-penned film “The Green Butchers” (De Gronne Slagtere) introduces viewers to overly dedicated Svend (Mads Mikkelsen) and laidback Bjarne (Nikolaj Lie Kaas), two underappreciated employees who open their own butcher shop. Their business is practically non-existent at first and does not pick up until Svend begins to experiment with the other white meat. The incorporation of not pork, not tofu turkey, but human meat happens so effortlessly that were it not for the verbal and visual reminders, one might forget that the consumption of human flesh is one of the film’s plot elements.
Cannibalism is a taboo whose practice is prohibited by civilized society (unless one eats another human to survive a plane crash or a hiking trip turned bad), and whose discussion is acceptable on an intellectual or anthropological level. In “The Green Butchers,” references to the butchering of the unfortunate victims are indirect (via off-screen sound or action). Jensen’s film leaves out images of the customers eating the “chickie wickies,” as they are called. Even though one sees dismembered limbs and bodies hang in the meat locker, and hears certain chopping sounds, one never sees the actual cutting apart of the bodies.
The lack of (unnecessary) gore can be attributed to the director’s wish not to assault the audience viscerally as well as the fact that “The Green Butchers” is not a horror film. Ideologically, though, the absence of the aforementioned activities suggests that the film adheres to the idea of cannibalism as something that can be talked about and only shown in pieces. It also complements the rest of the story, which focuses on why Svend does not interact well with people and why Bjarne doesnt want anything to do with his mentally challenged twin Eigel (Nikolaj Lie Kaas). Eerily lit and humorously written, “The Green Butchers” is a dark comedy whose story is propelled by shock but sustained by issues of love and forgiveness.