The Red Chapel
A journalist with no scruples, a spastic and a comedian travel to North Korea with a mission to challenge the conditions of the smile in one of the world’s most notorious regimes
On the pretext of being a small Danish theatre troupe on a cultural exchange, the Red Chapel was granted permission by the North Korean government to stage a performance for a select audience in the capital. In reality, the small troupe comprises an unscrupulous journalist, Mads Brügger, and two Danish/Korean comedians, Jacob and Simon. Jacob is handicapped, or as he calls it, a “spastic.” Their goal is to use humour to expose the intricate effects of an oppressive regime. The film follows the troupe as they are lovingly yet firmly escorted by a motherly government employee around the important historical sights, and as they “collaborate” with other government officials on their performance. Meanwhile, their double life is wearing on Jacob who feels conflicting emotions of affection and hatred for his hosts. With a sensibility similar to that of Lars Von Triers’ The Idiots, “The Red Chapel” is a darkly humorous look inside the North Korean dictatorship.
North Korea’s 23 million citizens are ruled by the iron hand of ’The Dear Leader’, General Kim Jong-il. The country has a history of starving its people, violating human rights and abusing and killing its handicapped citizens. The title, “The Red Chapel”, is a reference to a communist spy cell that operated in Nazi Germany under the name “Rote Kapelle”.