Ants on a Shrimp is a documentary about Noma – a Copenhagen-based restaurant that’s one of the best, if not the best, in the world – and their stint in Tokyo. Theoretically, it’s a film about the creative process; about the challenges facing the restauranteurs seeking to craft an entirely new menu inspired by Japanese cuisine.
At times, Ants on a Shrimp captures the rigour and magic of creativity, whether it’s watching co-founder René Redzepi forage through local forests in search of just the right twig or the sequence of failures that presage success. But despite the film’s subject – fascinating if you have the slightest interest in ‘foodie’ culture, its approach is too conventional. Director Maurice Dekker’s broad strokes obscure the minutiae of Noma’s creative process; he’s committed to tying their residency in Japan to an easily accessible narrative. Continually he strives to build tension, but it nevers feel like anything’s truly at stake.
If only Dekker had taken a leaf from Frederick Wiseman and adopted an observational approach. Just sitting in the kitchen and watching a group of world-class chefs craft a new dish sounds far more appealing than a derivative approach that relies heavily on voice-over and talking heads.