The title is a reference to Toshiro Mifune, the Japanese director Akira Kurosawa’s favourite actor. He died as the film went into production and director Søren Kragh-Jacobsen and writer Anders Thomas Jensen came up with the title as a way of honouring him. So, no, this isn’t Japanese arthouse; it’s Danish. Which will scare a few people off, most likely. Scarier still, Mifune follows the Dogma commandments – the puritanical, ornament-free film-making style that has Hollywood-lovers reaching for their revolvers. The story is similarly bare-bones: the wife (it’s Sofie Gråbøl, later of The Killing fame) of a newly married man (Anders Berthelsen) is far from happy when she discovers his secret history – rural upbringing, idiot brother, mad hermit dad (deceased) – every city-dweller’s stereotyped image of backwoods weird. In fact once she realises just how offbeat the family is she leaves her husband, forcing him to look after his genuinely disturbed brother on his own. Incidentally, one of the ways Berthelsen keeps his brother happy is by dressing up as a samurai (another nod to Mifune, star of The Seven Samurai). Overwhelmed, he eventually advertises for a housekeeper to help share the load. She, when she arrives, is Iben Hjejle (highly familiar if you’ve seen High Fidelity) who is, of course, a runaway prostitute with a skipload of troubles of her own. If Mifune looks at first like formidable arthouse, it turns out in fact to be a charmingly tender romance. And it’s all played out against rural scenery so enticing that it will have you on the phone to DanAir the minute the film’s over.
© Steve Morrissey 2013