Viggo (Eric Clausen) is a fifty-year-old, sad, self-confident, charming know-it-all who has thrived at work as a proficient blacksmith for 25 years. At home he most enjoys being with his fish, since he sometimes argues with his wife Oda (Helle Rysling), who is mainly interested in the family tree and other down-to-earth things she reads in magazines.
This idyllic life doesn’t last. At the factory, pink slips are in the offing, there’s talk of merging with a larger company and of foreign investors and cutbacks.
Viggo is nervous, and rightly so, because one day the whole place is closed down. Everyone is relieved of their duties in order to seek new employment, which actually means they’re unemployed. Viggo must reluctantly admit that they’ve ‘thrown the baby out with the bath water’. But being so self-confident – ‘you don’t take the first job that comes along’ – everything is fine, at least in the beginning.
Viggo starts taking an interest in his surroundings, e.g. his adult son Claus (Lars Lippert), whom he accidentally finds out is a homosexual. He takes it badly and this is compounded when his colleague Iversen (Leif Sylvester) explains that a good father would have known all along. Oda isn’t much help either, so when temptation comes in the form of the mature, well-kept and warm-blooded Karen (Anne Marie Helger), Viggo throws himself remorselessly into her soft embrace.
Money is apparently no object since Karen invites him to Majorca where they can ‘go native’. Although Oda can’t understand why he needs his swimming trunks on ‘a course for shop stewards’ in Silkeborg, the amorous lovebirds take off for a fling in Southern Europe. But happiness is short-lived because Viggo can’t come to grips with himself or his life. Even though ‘one shouldn’t wash one’s dirty laundry in public’, he can no longer take being a fish out of water. He has a breakdown and ends up in the funny farm. Hence he has a chance to start over and the win back his beloved Oda.
Fish Out of Water won a Bodil (the Danish ‘Oscar’) for Best film of the year.