Film / Adam's Apples

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Ivan: The devil is testing us.
Adam: By stopping me from baking a cake?

Adam's Apples (Adams Æbler) is a dense Danish Dramedy from 2005, written and directed by Anders Thomas Jensen and starring Mads Mikkelsen and Ulrich Thomsen.

It tells the story of the Neo-Nazi criminal, Adam (Thomsen), freshly released from prison, who is ordered to do some community service under the supervision of Ivan (Mikkelsen), a pastor in a small village parish, joins the community of social outcasts sharing the same fate, and chooses as his goal making an apple pie out of the apples growing in the parish's orchard. The main source of drama in the movie comes from the exploration of the differences between the characters and beliefs of both men, one of whom, in spite of his unusually thorny life, has an unshaken belief in the ultimate goodness of God and his creation, while the second believes only in physical strength and determination. They do not discuss much, but the more they come to know each other the stronger the tension is between them, which results in an unexpected ending with a strong Aesopian element which leaves more questions than it solves.

Contains the following tropes:

  • As the Good Book Says...: After all, Ivan's a minister.
  • The Atoner: In a way, all the characters except Ivan and his son (and maybe Dr. Kolberg).
  • Bald of Evil: Adam, a Neo-Nazi skinhead, has this in the beginning.
  • Belief Makes You Stupid: This is how Adam interprets Ivan's behavior.
  • Believing Their Own Lies: A rather tragic example with Ivan. His belief in his own lies is not only what stands between him and a probable complete mental breakdown, seeing how his life has been one long parade of extreme misery, it is also what keeps him alive, as his staunch refusal to believe that he has a lethal brain tumor is strong that it is actually hindering the tumor's growth.
  • Born Unlucky: Ivan, whose life seems to be a long streak of bad luck. His mother died when he was young, him and his sister was molested by their father on near daily basis throughout their childhoods, leading his sister to eventually commit suicide, his son was born with a severe disability, leading his wife to commit suicide, and he was diagnosed with a lethal brain tumor.
  • Break the Cutie: What Adam tries to do to Ivan.
  • Butt-Monkey: Ivan, whom God or the universe appears to like screwing with. In spite of this, his optimism and belief in God's goodness (along with everything else) doesn't waver until very late.
  • Cosmic Plaything: Ivan appears to be this given the difficulties which have afflicted him.
  • Deus ex Machina: The ending. Alternatively, and what it's suggested Adam believes, the real Deus was involved.
  • Driven to Suicide: Ivan's wife, in despair over their son's severe disability. Ivan is in complete denial over it.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Adam finds Ivan's beliefs utterly unfathomable when he starts out, before slowly converting to them.
  • Feathered Fiend: The Creepy Crows attacking the apple tree.
  • Give Me Back My Wallet: Adam's response to Gunnar's attempt to steal his personal things.
  • God Is Evil: Adam's initial belief, which he tries to convince Ivan of given all that he's suffered.
  • God is Good: Ivan's initial belief, in spite of all he's suffered. Finally it slips due to Adam's breaking him, but he regains it by the end.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Sarah, who contemplates having an abortion due to being both a single mother and over the possibility that the baby would have Down Syndrome (given that she's forty). Ivan persuades her to keep it, (falsely) citing his own son who he says was supposed to be born disabled but isn't (he actually is). She goes on to have a son with Down Syndrome, but by then she doesn't seem to care.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Adam, who goes from a Neo-Nazi thug into becoming Ivan's assistant in helping reform other people.
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: One of the Neo-Nazis accidentally shoots Ivan when he attempts to disarm him.
  • Impossible Task: Played with. Making an apple pie seems absurdly simple as a goal while on community service, but in the end turns out to be almost impossible.
  • In Mysterious Ways: Possibly the Aesop of the whole movie.
  • The Lost Lenore: Ivan's wife, who killed herself before the events of the film.
  • Mad Doctor: Dr. Kolberg clearly has some issues.
  • Messianic Archetype: Ivan, a special case of Everyone Being Jesus in Purgatory (even though he is more strongly suggested to be a Job).
  • Minimalism: The film takes place wholly in a small Danish community with only a bare handful of main characters.
  • Parental Obliviousness: Taken to extremes in Ivan's case, who absolutely refuses to admit that his son has any disability (he uses a wheelchair) and claims he's just too tired to walk.
  • The Pollyanna: Ivan, whose optimism stretches into deep denial of anything bad.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Gunnar, but even he is more tragic than funny.
  • Preacher Man: Ivan, a pastor in the Church of Denmark who runs a program to help criminals reform.
  • Preacher's Kid: Totally subverted. Poor Christopher does not have many opportunities to be either very good or very bad.
  • Reformed Criminal: Adam, by the end of the film, who gives up his criminal ways and becomes Ivan's assistant.
  • Selective Obliviousness: Following a life that seems like nothing but one endless streak of bad luck, this behavior has become pathological to Ivan, to point where almost everything he says are Blatant Lies (though he fully believes them himself), such as claiming his severely disabled son is a completely healthy and normal kid, his wife who committed suicide is "around somewhere", and the criminals in his care are all reformed even though they clearly still frequently engage in their old crimes. Ultimately though, his obliviousness is what keeps him alive.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Ivan, in Adam's eyes. He resolutely refuses to see bad in anyone or anything, to the point of completely denying it.
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