The English title for this Danish biopic of comedian and actor Dirch Passer is A Funny Man, and it is one of the strengths of this film that it is able to overcome the language barrier and generate genuine laughs. Starring Nikolaj Lie Kaas and Lars Ranthe as the comedy duo Dirch Passer and Kjeld Petersen, Dirch excels in its depiction of life in front of and behind the curtain. Away from the ABC Theatre however, the film could have benefited from more clarity and context for the uninitiated.
While out celebrating his latest stage success, Dirch confides to Kjeld that the women he has just met may be ‘the one’. He then returns home to his wife and professes his love to her. After the inevitable divorce, he sets up home with his newfound love but soon evicts her after his partnership with Kjeld breaks down. An ill-fated attempt at serious drama coincides with a liaison with actress Judy Gringer, but this too dissolves after Kjeld dies. Nevertheless, Kjeld still visits Dirch while another marriage and divorce is fleetingly depicted before his final affair begins with a woman almost thirty years his junior.
So not to put too fine a point on it, despite the many women who passed through Dirch’s life, his most significant relationship was the one he had with Kjeld. Fortunately, Lars Ranthe gives a magnificent performance in this supporting role, which is oddly more defined that the lead character. Though recognised as the more talented of the two, Kjeld’s frustration with his partner’s popularity and off-stage behaviour are sympathetically realised. Consequently, his plight evokes more pathos and empathy than Dirch’s flirtations with women and ‘Of Mice and Men’.
Incidentally, Dirch contains one of those odd bits of happenstance that can occasionally occur in biopics. As Nikolaj Lie Kaas’s father Preben Kaas was a frequent collaborator of Dirch Passer, there is a scene in which the actor chastises his own father, albeit portrayed by Martin Buch.
as Dirch Passer
as Kjeld Petersen
as Stig Lommer
as Ove Sprogøe
Dirch Passer did not die in front of an audience. He fell over on stage behind the curtain shortly before the performance. He was immediately taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Film makes a fleeting reference to Passer’s film career, focusing instead on his stage performances.