Every single company in Denmark, most associations and indeed any other group of people outside family, have an annual Christmas lunch (julefrokost). I do not think this is uniquely Danish. The format of it however seems to be outside the ordinary. Most of my international friends see it as a bit of a culture chock and feel a bit… uncomfortable about how rowdy a thing it is. Somewhere between the pickled herring and snaps and watching your boss play air-guitar this is something you remember. Unless you passed out with hazy ideas about what happened. If you do not know what snaps is, google it. The best is called Rød Aalborg and must be drunk at sub-zero temperature…
“Julefrokosten” is a legendary movie about such a Christmas lunch that when completely off the rails.
At Simonsen’s Bijuteriefabrik it is time for the annual Christmas lunch. This is a small company of the old school with a hierarchical structure, a place where people are called by surname. But at the Christmas lunch all such titles and forms are relaxed, and everybody are intent on having a good time. This means copious amount of alcohol. And snaps, well, you really do not need a lot of those. Soon the foreman Karlsen (Jesper Langballe) is hitting on Henny (Lisbeth Dahl), Merete (Kirsten Norholt) hits on anything that moves, Peter Petit (Jørgen Ryg) speaks fake Chinese and sits in the food, Borgunde (Judy Gringer) gets the party in gear and Hans (Preben Kaas) is everybody’s best friend as he supplies drink. By the time the manager, Simonsen (Bjørn Puggaard-Müller), shows up everybody are in high spirits and he gets busy catching up.
This goes from bad to worse when the party crashes Simonsen’s office where the stuffy bookkeeper, Asta Asmussen (Birgitte Federspiel), thinks she will be hosting coffee and cake, but instead gets into a fist fight with Borgunde. When they order a late evening snack, the delivery guy gets sucked into the party and as drunk as the rest. Even worse when a passing elderly lady sees Petit and Borgunde on the roof and thinks he is about to get killed. Eventually half the party ends in the detention to sleep it out.
Okay, I have never experienced a julefrokost get to those extremes and generally drunk people are only funny if you are drunk yourself, but this is one of the few examples where they actually are funny, especially when you have experienced Christmas lunches and know how wild they can get. There is something funny about how stupid and embarrassing people can get when inhibitions are lost and, frankly, a relief to see a movie where people turn funny instead of mean from drinking. Not that these people do not have a LOT to think about afterwards and bitterly wished they had held back a bit.
This is also fun to watch because the cast is the absolute best Danish film could offer by the mid-seventies. Every single role is filled by an actor who would be a star on his or her own in any other movie, and yet nobody is drowning (well, in snaps, but you know what I mean). This is truly an ensemble comedy. Sure, some of the jokes are dated, but this is still way better than the remake from 2009, mostly because it does not feel the need to moralize. We can all see that objectively this is terrible, but it is also hilariously fun.
Our Christmas lunch was postponed due to Covid and is due is three weeks. The food and the snaps are ready and there are places on site to crash. Only question is if we are getting too old for this stuff.