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Denmark / Sweden 2006
Directed by
Susanne Bier
103 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
4 stars

After The Wedding (2006)

Synopsis: Jacob (Mads Mikkelsen) is a Dane who has lived in India for 20 years and is currently running an orphanage in Bombay. When wealthy benefactor Jorgen (Rolf Lassgard) contacts the institution offering a hefty donation he insists that Jacob return to Denmark to sign the deal. After the business meeting, Jorgen invites Jacob to the wedding of his daughter, Anna. Jacob is astonished to discover the mother of the bride is his old lover,Helene (Sidse Babett Knudsen). The days and subsequent weeks after the wedding prove to be a time of shocking revelations, unearthed secrets and life-changing decisions.

The previous two films of director Susanne Bier (Open Hearts, 2002 and Brothers, 2004) were notable for their emotional intensity and this one is no exception. Collaborating again as she had on those films with screenwriter Anders Thomas Jensen, she infuses this film with love, pain, joy and sorrow in a way that smacks of real life and its unexpected crises and decisions which change it irrevocably, for better or worse.

The performances by both male leads are terrific. Mikkelsen is best known to non-Scandinavian audiences as the villain in this year's Casino Royale but his acting skill is much stronger that the cartoon villainy called for there. Aside from his brooding anger, his character displays a soft and loving side, as evidenced in his tender relationship with a small orphan, Pramod, whom Jacob has raised from infancy. Lassgard as Jorgen is superb and is responsible for a scene of such searing emotional honesty that it is difficult to not to be swept away by it. Knudsen is an able foil for both men and praise must go also to the lovely Stine Fischer Christensen who plays the bride, Anna. She too reveals hidden depths and strengths way beyond our initial assessment of her.

I love the way that this film’s intensity sneaks up on us. What starts out as a seemingly straightforward story, takes some very surprising twists and turns. Jorgen’s invitation to Jacob to attend the wedding is only the beginning of some major life-changing occurrences for all the characters concerned.  As the mundane gives way to the extraordinary one’s perception of each character at the outset will be quite turned around by the film's end. The character of Jorgen appears at first to be a powerful, obscenely wealthy man who uses his power almost manipulatively to get Jacob to do his bidding. But as the layers are peeled back he is not really what he seems. Jacob is obviously a man with a lot of repressed anger and again but the plot progresses he is given the opportunity to rise above his ego  And the joy of the wedding will be short-lived as life’s unpredictability is once more brought home.

Working under the aegis of Lars Von Trier's Dogme manifesto of film-making in which emotional honesty is sought through technical honesty Bier uses its characteristic hand-held camera, natural lighting and jump-cut editing to realize a film of both intensity and compassion. It is no surprise that it was a contender for Best Foreign Film at this year’s Academy Awards.




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