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Thursday, February 22nd, 2024  

After the Wedding

Studio: IFC Films
Directed by: Susanne Bier; Story: Susanne Bier and Anders Thomas Jensen; Script: Anders Thomas Jensen; Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Rolf Lassgård, Sidse Babett Knudsen and Stine Fischer Christensen

Apr 27, 2007 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Filmgoers who remember Lars von Trier’s Breaking the Waves (1996) and Thomas Vinterberg’s The Celebration (1998) might feel a twinge of nostalgia while viewing After the Wedding, a captivating Danish drama that was a Best Foreign Language Film nominee at this year’s Academy Awards. Shot on hand-held video and employing frequent jump cuts, After the Wedding bears a stylistic affinity with the aforementioned films and the Dogme 95 aesthetic. Von Trier and Vinterberg were two of the founding members of Dogme 95, a collective that authored a manifesto to counter the increasing excesses of post-production and CGI effects in contemporary films, while also calling for a set of 10 production rules to ground directors as the digital film revolution progressed. Von Trier announced the objectives of the movement at a 1995 Paris conference in honor of cinema’s 100th anniversary. Dogme 95 films didn’t break cinematic ground the way that Italian neorealism or the French New Wave did, but they did revive some of the tenets of those genres by aiming to restore the integrity of story, performance and naturalistic filmmaking in the era of Titanic (1997) and The Matrix (1999).


After the Wedding director Susanne Bier’s 2002 film Open Hearts was released with a Dogme 95 certificate, but rather than assuming Danish films have a singular look or feel, it’s more reasonable to deduce that Bier has since embraced some of the techniques she adopted for Open Hearts to meet Dogme 95 criteria, which forbids use of artificial light, props and score on the soundtrack. After the Wedding is not a Dogme film, however, and that’s clear from the outset, for it begins with a slow, lyrical montage to Sigur Ros’ “Vaka.” Impressionistic shots of skin affectionately being stroked, by candlelight, are interspersed with an expository setup in India. It’s an effective overture for a film that’s alternately mysterious, dramatic, and sad, yet ultimately life-affirming.


Jacob (Mads Mikkelsen) is a Dane working at an underfunded orphanage in Mumbai (Bombay in the film), where he has developed a close bond with the children and is a father figure to a young boy named Pramod. When a benefactor in Denmark contacts the orphanage about a possible donation of $4 million, Jacob plans a return to his native country to make a presentation on behalf of the orphanage, which could be shut down at any moment. Jacob promises Pramod that he will return in a week for his eighth birthday, but complications arise in Copenhagen when Jacob meets with Jørgen (Rolf Lassgård), a burly man of wealth who manipulates Jacob into staying in Denmark. Jacob is armed with facts and statistics that detail the plight of children in Bombay and their vulnerability to prostitution and drug addiction, but Jørgen is disaffected and, before making a decision, insists that Jacob attend his daughter’s wedding that weekend. Jacob reluctantly accepts the invitation, but his presence at the wedding proves to be the catalyst for an unveiling of weighty family secrets.


The ensuing events at first might seem to piece together too conveniently, but Bier and screenwriter Anders Thomas Jensen remain a step ahead, keeping some surprises under wraps until we’ve invested in the characters. One of the purported advantages of shooting on video is that the actors are allowed more freedom, and that appears to be evident here, as the performances are excellent across the board. Mikkelsen, with his weary, sun-bronzed face, stern eyes and prominent cheekbones, epitomizes a compromised idealist in Jacob. His words and demeanor are those of a fighter, but there are lost battles in his eyes. With the appearance of someone who has toiled in the streets, Jacob is a foil to the bearish, baritone-voiced Jørgen, a billionaire businessman who embraces the comforts of power and dwarfs Jacob in stature.


Wisely, Bier and Jensen don’t introduce Jørgen as a corporate heavy, but as a dutiful patriarch who reads to his children at night, provides a home for his mother and still flirts with his wife. He is a character that is meticulously revealed as the plot progresses, and Lassgård remains in perfect step, commandingly imparting Jørgen’s pride and also his infuriating caginess. Caught in the middle of Jacob and Jørgen’s tug of war are Jørgen’s wife Helene and his daughter Anna. Sidse Babett Knudsen exhibits both strength and restraint as Helene, who, in her attempt to prevent things from boiling over, must keep her own emotions in check, and Stine Fischer Christensen is luminous as Anna, the endearing bride whose life is turned upside down in the days following her wedding.


Although the actors likely benefited from the hand-held video approach, the visual characteristics of the film, as a whole, are not on par with the performances. A few of Bier’s shots are dizzying and distracting, a perennial complaint with verité, which has been mocked to no end. Too often she indulges in extreme close-up, fixating on lips and, in particular, single eyeballs. Some shots, notably exteriors, look gorgeous, like the reddish hues of the scenes in Bombay, or the bluish poolside conversations that occur at Jørgen’s estate. But the interior scenes occasionally shout low-budget art film, substantiating the notion that video filmmaking is still better suited for television, which has commercialized verité over the last two decades. And because After the Wedding shares some structural similarities with The Celebration, Bier’s film sometimes feels familiar.


At its core, though, After the Wedding is a thoughtful and emotional story that challenges traditional notions of commitment and virtue. Its characters face difficult, life-altering decisions, and values are jeopardized in their effort to seek renewal. More significant than any stylistic methods, the resounding accomplishment of Bier and the cast is that the film is graced with human spirit and compassion.

www.ifcfilms.com/afterthewedding

Author rating: 7/10

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Hawaii Weddings
November 28th 2009
9:07am

I think its worth it to spend some alone married time, enjoy the magic of being a newly wed, you can never get that time back and it really is amazing, even if you’ve lived together before you married, everything changes once those rings go on your fingers and you really get to know the person you have married in those first few years.

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December 19th 2009
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Sound like a great film:)

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April 13th 2010
6:13pm

A Danish corporation offers a substantial donation to maintain the orphanage, but Jacob is told that he must return to Denmark (where he grew up) to receive the funds. Apparently the CEO, Jørgen Hannson, wishes to meet Jacob and shake his hand.

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April 24th 2010
11:11pm

After the Wedding is not a Dogme film, however, and that’s clear from the outset, for it begins with a slow, lyrical montage

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April 30th 2010
9:57pm

During the ceremony, Helene, Jørgen’s wife, notices Jacob, and steals surreptitious glances at him, unable to believe her eyes. They are formally introduced during the reception, though both of them already confirmed each other’s identity.

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September 6th 2010
5:11am

Hi,
I’m planning to surprise the bride in June she is marrying in august. she decided to plan a party right after. is it okay to have a party before the wedding?

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September 28th 2010
3:01am

Hi,
My wedding is a month away and we received our first gift yesterday. I feel like I should send a thank you now but I was told I should wait until after the wedding. What is the proper thing to do?

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January 10th 2011
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May 14th 2011
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Synopsis: Humanitarian Jacob Pedersen (Mads Mikkelsen) manages an orphanage in a poverty-stricken part of India. Dedicated to his work, he reluctantly returns to his native Denmark to meet billionaire businessman Jorgen Hannson (Rolf Lassgård).Hannson has expressed interest in Jacob’s cause, and considers a generous donation that would prevent Jacob’s nearly bankrupt orphanage from closing.At first Jacob feels only contempt for the filthy-rich and seemingly arrogant businessman. But things soon get complicated when Jorgen twists Jacob’s arm into attending the wedding of Jorgen’s daughter Anna (Stine Fischer Christensen).wedding place card holder favors

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July 20th 2011
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I’ve been looking forward to this film being released for awhile now. It’s on my Netflix order list, but as luck would have it they are still waiting for the DVD release.

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July 26th 2011
8:02am

This looks like an interesting movie to watch. Seeing that the two characters dress so simply, I wonder if their wedding was a simple affair with simple table decorations and favors. I will definitely catch it if I manage to find it in my local video store! Thanks for sharing this!

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