By Claire Meakins, Second Year, English Literature
Wild Men is a bizarre film; part comedy-drama, part crime thriller, it somehow manages to tie this range of genres together into a wholly enjoyable 104 minutes. The stunning Norwegian landscapes and occasional moments of reflection mean that, for an action-packed film, it rarely feels too ‘in your face’.
Martin (Rasmus Bjerg), a middle-aged man struggling with finding balance in the modern world, runs off alone into the mountains to live off the land and get some much-needed time to reflect. Despite looking the part, his attempts at this lifestyle are less than successful; in the film’s opening scene, he ends up looting a supermarket because he can’t catch anything substantial to eat. This lifestyle is further complicated when he crosses paths with Musa (Zaki Youssef), a drug smuggler. Unaware of Musa’s true identity, Martin agrees to help him journey across the wilderness to the ferry port in the town of Guddal.
The unlikely relationship between the two is one of the film’s strong points. Martin’s naive incompetence is contrasted with Musa’s practicality and intelligence, yet neither are the stereotypes you might expect from a comedy duo. The moments of humour are sharp and well-executed, but they are clearly not just characters written for their comedic value. While Martin’s Viking-esque appearance might suggest he’s not a character to be taken seriously, he has unexpected moments of poignant and heartfelt dialogue.
Perhaps what Wild Men lacks is subtlety, although it’s not as though its title and premise exactly promise that. The film has some interesting exploration on masculinity and the ways in which men can end up feeling alienated or overwhelmed in the modern world. Few of the male characters are wholly mad or evil, but all of them struggle with knowing what their place in society should be. This is explored well for the most part, but, at times, it does feel shoehorned in or over-explained.
Still, it’s refreshing to see media deal with the concept of ‘masculinity in crisis’ which doesn’t feel either harshly judgemental or misogynistic. Writer and Director Thomas Daneskov deftly avoids criticising his characters, instead allowing audiences to pass their own judgements and decide where a healthy mid-ground lies. The inclusion of Martin’s wife, Anne (Sofie Gråbøl), allows the other side of the story to be told and serves as a reminder that individual actions rarely have individual consequences.
Martin’s running away throws his family into turmoil and she is, understandably, overwhelmed and frustrated. Yet, she is never presented as simply the ‘nagging wife’ (aside from by Martin himself), but rather as a stable point of relatability for the audience in amongst the madness happening on screen.
While some of this premise may sound bleak or overly serious, Wild Men is far from being either. It has a strong enough combination of dark humour, slapstick and witty remarks to make most people laugh at least once. Rarely does the comedy fall flat and many lines are brilliantly quotable. It's an easy film to enjoy, even when the plot gets a little messy.
Parts of Wild Men's narrative feel a bit too convenient or convoluted but, somehow, it’s easy to forgive in a film like this. For both those who want escapism and those who want deeper themes from film, Wild Men offers a healthy balance of the two. It’s a hard film not to enjoy, even if it does have its flaws.
Featured Image: IMDB
Did you feel Wild Men lived up to its title?