Friday, July 11, 2008

The Celebration

Festen; drama, Denmark / Sweden, 1998; D: Thomas Vinterberg, S: Ulrich Thomsen, Henning Moritzen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Paprika Steen, Birthe Neumann, Trine Dyrholm
The blond Christian walks alone on the road in the middle of a meadow. His brother Michael arrives in a car and gives him a ride, expelling firsthand his wife Mette and their kids to make room. They arrive at a hotel where sister Helene awaits them and their whole family - they are gathered for a party to celebrate the 60th birthday of Helge, their father. Michael is a violent person and starts arguing with Helene's lover because he is Black. They, surprisingly, Christian holds a speech and reveals to everyone that his father Helge raped him as a child and that his sister committed suicide because of it. Michael throws him out, but then finds the letter of his late sister. After that he beats his father. The next morning Helge admits everything and they make up.

Drama "The Celebration" is a untypically shrill and energetic film for Dogme 95 due to its genius visual style which instills it with unexpected creativity: unlike many static Dogme 95 films, here the camera is dynamic and will make a lot of viewers enjoy in its unusual angles and camera drives. The bird perspective, fish eye lens, a close up shot of an object for ecstatic physiognomy, the "floating" of the camera through the room while it slowly shifts for 180 degrees - it is all here, but probably the most poetic image is the close up shot of the hero in the dark while he is scarcely illuminated by a candle, mirroring his tormented emotional state. But even the sole story about incest in the family that causes pain and the disintegration of the celebration is extremely well elaborated and unbelievably authentic. When Christian holds his speech about how "children were always afraid when father would take a bath" the guests are all laughing because they take it as a joke, yet when he finishes his rant by adding how he raped them, it petrifies them all. Such a fine directorial touch by Thomas Vinterberg earned the film numerous awards, like the grand prix in Cannes and a nomination for a BAFTA and a Golden Globe as best foreign language film. When one takes notice of the delicate tone and powerful execution, family drama "The Celebration" is a shining achievement.


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