Benny’s Bathtub

Jannik Hastrup (1941-) and Flemming Quist Møller (1942-)

By Christian Monggaard, film critic and reviewer at Information, 2006

Fun and games

“It is almost impossible to turn one’s back a single moment”, says Benny’s grumpy mother. She has just come home and has found her son engaged in turning the living room into a regular battle zone. Now Benny must go out and play - but that is not nearly as funny, he thinks. Benny catches a tadpole in a lake close to the grey concrete block where he lives. His mother thinks that this is disgusting little creature, but when Benny puts it in his bath tub and follows its progress below the surface of the water, he is taken on a wonderful journey. 
The tadpole turns out to be an enchanted prince and along with him Benny meets among others three beautiful, but affected mermaids, a conceited crab door keeper, two silly pirate skeletons that keep mocking each other and want to fight all the time and a funky octopus poised for fun and games. 

Remember your inner child 

Jannik Hastrup and Flemming Quist Moeller’s Benny’s Bath Tub is an entertaining film for both adults and children to watch together. The loose, almost improvised cartoon style of the animation ensures the special charm of the film, which disarms us with its batty ideas, jolly, jazzy music and colourful characters. 
This sparkling, inventive film is based on a picturebook by Flemming Quist Moeller dating from 1969. It is about the inner child in all of us - a zestful, dry satire on all those boring adults who spend more time complaining and discussing washing powder than playing with their children. 

Power of imagination 

For 40 years Jannik Hastrup has produced the sort of cartoon films he wants to see himself. He believes that animation is an art form for adults as well as children. Along with his permanent, creative partners - Flemming Quist Moeller and Bent Haller - Hastrup has never been afraid of challenging his audiences. 
Hastrup comes from the youth revolution in the 1960s and 70s and the political scene of that time. He often tells tough stories that are critical of society, but his tales can often be funny - with animals as main characters. Benny’s Bath Tub is a film about the cheerful individual in a stifling society. It is also a wonderful tribute to the power of the imagination, joie de vivre and productive anarchy. 

Benny deep down in his bath tub. Bennys Bathtub. Photo: Susanne Mertz. ©Fiasko Film. 41 min. Manuscript: Flemming Quist Møller. Producent: Fiasco Film.
3 mermaids smiling. Bennys Bathtub. Photo: Susanne Mertz. ©Fiasko Film. 41 min. Manuscript: Flemming Quist Møller. Producent: Fiasco Film.

Did you know?

Source: Det Danske Filminstituts hjemmeside

Jannik Hastrup and Flemming Quist Møller started their cartoon collaboration in 1964 with the film Concerto Erotica (1964) and then Slambert (1966) - both loose and erotic small films. Some of these films' sensuality and bodily emancipation are also found in Benny's Bathtub, where three mothers with bare breasts appear.

The committee's justification

By the Committee for Film, 2006

Since the 1960s, Denmark has produced children’s films that in an international context is unique, both in terms of volume and quality. The animation film Benny’s Bathtub is an absolute first-class example. It is a fantastical and musically sparkling tale about Benny, a boy who flees the boring world of the adults in the grey apartment block in which he lives, down to the magical world at the bottom of his bathtub. In the company of his newly caught tadpole, he meets, among others, three beautiful mermaids and an ink-squirting octopus, leading to wonderful song and dance numbers.

Flemming Quist Møller and Jannik Hastrup’s animation style is naive and almost primitively simple; however, the pretentiousness is turned into a charming and jazzy strength that appeals both to children and adults. The film is a flower child of its time that wished to give power to fantasy and where acknowledgement of the children’s world of experience made a major breakthrough.
The story is wonderfully free of pedological wagging fingers and the timely portrayal of the cold block apartment environment and the unsympathetic adults is softened with a humorous streak and hilarious dialogue ably provided by actors such as Jytte Abildstrøm and Jesper Klein.
In addition, one can enjoy the fact that the jazz elite were attracted by the possibility of providing artistic quality at children’s level. The musical numbers include contributions from, among others, Peter Belli, Otto Brandenburg and Povl Dissing alongside internationally renowned musicians such as Kenny Drew and Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen.


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