Monday, September 12, 2016

Foreign Film Spotlight: FESTEN (THE CELEBRATION)

Some of the best films ever made have not been seen by the general audience, and this is because they were made outside of the United States. Welcome to another installment of FOREIGN FILM SPOTLIGHT, where we showcase some of the best in foreign cinema to help broaden your horizons.  This week we take a look at the Danish film, FESTEN (THE CELEBRATION).

I chose to review The Celebration because I remember watching it in one of my film classes and its simple production stuck out to me. There were many foreign films I could have chosen to review, but I chose this one because of the complicated plot and the fact that I was able to relate to it on a personal level. All families have secrets.

This film was created using the rules of the Dogme 95 movement. The movement started in 1995 with Danish directors, Thomas Vinterberg and Lars von Trier. There were certain rules that needed to be followed such as excluding the use of elaborate special effects or technology, using only handheld camera, and shooting on location. The purpose of the movement was to go back to traditional acting and filmmaking without all the bells and whistles. It created a simple type of filmmaking that I came to appreciate. A film does not need special effects or elaborate lighting to be great or worthy of critical praise.

The Celebration came out in 1998 and was directed by Thomas Vinterberg. At first glance, the storyline seems to be about a simple dinner party. But, it's so much more than that. The dinner party is for the family patriarch's 60th birthday. It should be a time of joy and celebration. However, it's not that way at all....

There is a huge family secret looming over the "celebration". This film deals with a taboo subject very well indeed. The patriarch, Helge, (Henning Mortizen) plays the overbearing father very well. He's not aware that his eldest son, Christian, (Ulrich Thomen) plans to reveal a revolting secret to the entire party. However, by the end of the film Helge is the one who reveals the secret and it is the best scene in the movie.

I thought this movie was well acted, but I enjoyed the performances of the father and eldest son the most. The eldest son, Christian, was so determined to bring down his father, Helge, because of what had happened to his sister. The father seemed remorseful at the end. As you can see, this was no ordinary celebration.

I enjoyed the fact that Thomas Vinterberg was trying to create a film with simple rules. But, sometimes just shooting on location doesn't work. What if you needed a prop that wasn't there? The Dogme 95 style was ambitious but it also had its flaws. I didn't like the rule of not giving the director credit. Being a director isn't easy and they should be credited for their work.

The Celebration was received well by critics with Roger Ebert giving the film 3/4 stars and holding a score of 91% on Rotten Tomatoes. If you are looking for a foreign film to enjoy, then give this one a go.

Lisa's Score: 7/10

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