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Festen
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Reviews & Ratings for
The Celebration More at IMDbPro »Festen (original title)

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110 out of 127 people found the following review useful:

Vinterberg achieves brilliant storytelling using Dogme 95

10/10
Author: Devrim (dyavuz@po-box.mcgill.ca)
10 March 1999

I have just seen Vinterberg's `Festen' an hour ago. Usually I try not to write or think about a film right after I have seen it. However, I am too overwhelmed to prevent myself from writing. I had been waiting over a year to see a film like the `Fetsen' that would both demonstrate superb craftsmanship and be able to move me personally at the same time. The combination of the two in a film is without a doubt the product of brilliant storytelling. I would, therefore, like to start by congratulating the storyteller Vinterberg before going on with my eulogies.

As for why I liked the `Festen' so much there is no better place to start from than Dogme 95. I must confess, though I loved Lars Von Trier's `The Kingdome', that I thought Dogme 95 would be nothing more than a fruitless publicity stunt. Of course I have been proven wrong. For one thing reading the comments on IMDB it is apparent that viewers, whether they liked the `Festen' or not, whether they are interested in film as art form or not and whether they are aware of what Dogme 95 is or not, have all commented extensively on the cinematography, the camera and the directing. I believe that this is an important achievement. All the expensive technology that has been used in mainstream cinema within the last few years have made viewers forget that there are actually people behind the cameras who are making decisions. This supposedly is good directing, because it carries the viewer into the universe in which the film is taking place. But carried to an extreme it homogenizes films to an extent where the viewer watches a ship sink with the same emotions as he/she watches cows fly in a tornado.

None however, despite the colossal events that they depict, can achieve the explosiveness with which the `Festen' turns a simple family gathering into a crisis of catastrophic proportions. This is mainly due to the brilliant use of Dogme 95 that, among other things, requires that camera movements be restricted to those that can be achieved with a handheld camera, and, only natural light and locations be used. I believe that these are only principles and whatever individual directors achieve with them solely depend on their respective talents. It is the same thing with mainstream Hollywood cinema, though there is a widely used form of narration, only Steven Spielberg and a handful of other directors are really good at it. As such one must look at how Vinterberg has used the principles of Dogme 95 to produce the work of superb storytelling that the `Festen' is.

Without a doubt the use of natural light only has worked to the advantage of the film by helping convey the atmosphere required by each scene. The film starts off in daylight as all the family members arrive at the family run hotel to celebrate their father's sixtieth birthday. The bright sunlight is therefore good to convey the idea that the family is actually attending what they believe will be a celebration. However, as the story unfolds and dark secrets of the family are unraveled, the light also changes. Outside shots give way to darker interior shots. Sharp images shot in daylight give way to darker and grainy images.

The use of handheld camera, however, is perhaps the most important element in conveying the general atmosphere of the film. The constant trembling and sharp movements of the camera in closed claustrophobic environments create the uneasy feeling that there is something constantly threatening to explode. I could think of no better way to shoot a film about a family that reveals its darkest secrets throughout the gathering. When the secrets in the `Festen' are eventually revealed unleashing anger and hatred, the explosive moments the viewers had anticipated, the fast camera movements only serve to enhance the violence of each scene. Another director, though not related to Dogme 95, I admire for his use of constant camera movements in closed environments to generate the same feeling is Martin Scorcese (especially in Mean Streets). This quality, among other things, has made Martin Scorcese one of my favorite directors of all times.

In addition to brilliant directing, I thought that the `Fetsen' had a superb cast of very talented actors. My only regret has been the fact that I do not understand Danish and could therefore not enjoy their performance as much as I would have wanted to. But the rhythm and emotion in which the actors delivered their lines is powerful enough to transcend any language barrier. The screenplay is brilliant. It could have been shot by the worst Hollywood director and still have become a decent film. I do not want to give the plot away. The only thing I will, therefore, say is that the character development is very good, and, the plot, the pace at which it unravels and each family member reveals or changes his/her position, makes the story fall together exactly as it should have.

One of Dogme 95's purposes is to bring the viewer closer to the story and the characters, if this is the case I believe that that the `Festen' has achieved just that. Ironically, though Dogme 95 also intends to undermine the role of the director as auteur it has achieved just the opposite. But I believe that this is a good and refreshing thing when most other upcoming filmmakers do not seem as concerned as their predecessors had been/still are with film as art form.

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100 out of 123 people found the following review useful:

A highly creative piece of film-making

10/10
Author: Grann-Bach (Grann-Bach@jubii.dk) from Denmark
10 July 2005

I have seen this film more than I've bothered to keep track of. That's not to say that I've seen it an unusual amount of times(it's probably not more than three), just that I've never bothered to keep track. Anyway, my point is, every time, it's like seeing it for the first time. I keep discovering things that I must have noticed before, but don't remember seeing earlier. Tonight, I finally realized why; I'm blocking them out. I'm blocking out almost every single second of this film, and here's why; it reminds me of everything I hate about Denmark and being Danish. Everything strangers automatically associate me with, because I'm Danish. Not only does it remind me of it, the film flaunts it, without ever even considering holding back. The way we drink, how superficial we are, how dependent the typical grown male is of women, how racist and ignorant we are... everything. The film effectively airs our dirty laundry to the audience. On this latest viewing, I actually couldn't stand sitting through(a self-contradiction, I know) more than the first half hour... after which I casually followed the rest whilst sitting at my computer, from where I can see the TV screen... when I bother to stretch, so the computer monitor isn't blocking the view. Needless to say, I didn't catch an awful lot of it this way... but what I got was more than enough to disgust me. I can't think of any other movie I have this kind of relationship with... and I know why. I also know why this film has such an impact on me. It's because it's real. True. This is the kind of stuff you don't find in fiction... but in the newspaper, in your own family, in your own people, wherever you're from... the ugly side of us all. The shadow side. What we keep hidden from the outside world, but what we ultimately succumb to if we don't indulge it every once in a while. I chose to center my review for this film around this, because I think it's what really stands out about it. Also, I think we all, by now, know how great the acting, writing and direction is. And, being a Dogme film, it's very creatively filmed, too. So there you have it. A very creative film that puts so much focus on the shadow side of us all, of Danes in particular that is so effective that it actually makes me sick, me, a person who's been watching violent movies since I was twelve and was hardly ever affected by it. I recommend this to anyone who believe they can take it. Definitely not for the faint of heart or very sensitive people. Most people will probably have as strong a negative reaction to this as I did(unless they're far more grounded and at peace with who they are than I am), but don't let that deter you from seeing it. Chances are, you'll love it. If nothing else, you can't claim that it was fake or untrue. 10/10

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83 out of 99 people found the following review useful:

This family would need a lot of help just to be dysfunctional.

10/10
Author: Dr. Don-2 from Vancouver, British Columbia
26 May 1999

First of all, the home video camera style, casting and editing perfectly suited the subject matter and script. Wealthy and overbearing patriarch is feted on the occasion of his 60th birthday -- extended family and hangers-on gather with some of the best and worst aspects of our culture on display. It's also a rather sad occasion, as one of daddy's daughters killed herself not long ago, but several guests mention how "nice" the funeral was, and which room is mine? Eldest son rises to give a toast to the old man -- and out comes some unpleasantness that people would either prefer to pretend they didn't hear, or stuff forcefully back down his throat. Then the fun really starts.

Thanks to the cast for acting with restraint -- and being believable.

Some very black humour (including pathetic scenes of the decadent bourgeoisie at play), none of it gratuitous, some of it damning, some just outrageously funny. But this is not a light film in any sense. Guess what really happens when the victimised family member tells the truth? Ouch! What about when mommy gets to choose between husband and child? Double ouch!! And finally, when victim asks dad why he did it -- well, prepare for the blow to the old solar plexus...

Trust me, I know. This is how it really happens. It's good to see a well-crafted film (that gives its human themes paramount importance) on this subject. I'm tired of watching films which try to make me feel sorry for rich kids whose parents just don't understand how hard it is to be a rich kid with pimples.

As the families (one in ten?) with histories like this one can attest, being "dysfunctional" would have been a very happy place to be, compared to the reality as shown in this fine film.

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87 out of 109 people found the following review useful:

If you haven't seen this... go right now!

10/10
Author: headfulofghosts126 from Chicago
22 August 2002

A film so involving that a score, proper editing, and lighting are hardly missed. You are experiencing this world first hand... and what a screwed up, wonderful journey it is. I can't even begin to go into the story because it would be a crime. You have to see this for yourself. Don't be disuaded by the subtitles or strange look of the movie. Let it run for fifteen minutes and you'll be hooked. This is a powerful, powerful little movie. Guranteed to stay with you days after you've seen it. Do yourself a huge favor and rent this movie asap. If you're fed up with the cookie cutter Hollywood garbage this will be most refreshing.

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57 out of 75 people found the following review useful:

God bless the Dogme 95!

10/10
Author: Artêmis from Belo Horizonte, Brazil
7 May 2000

I always wanted to watch "Festen" since I knew about the Dogme 95. As any Danish movie, it was released in a unique cultural theater. And, as most of the European movies, in less than 3 weeks, it wasn't...

OK, you'll tell the truth: I don't know why but I didn't watch it on a theater, and I could have done it. I waited for its release in video but all the times I went to the videostore I forgot to rent it. But one year after the release on theaters, it was rolling in Eurochannel (a cable-TV channel. It's all about Europe). I couldn't miss that chance so, on a Friday night, at 22:00, I finally watched it. And what an AMAZING film!!!

At first, the plot seems interesting and simple but after 20 minutes you finally realize how strong and provocative Festen really is. It's about one celebration made by the patriarch of the family Kingenfelt in the hotel where he lives. He's commemorating his 60 years. Christian, the older son, makes a speech where secrets are revealed.

The rules of the Dogme 95 as the use of natural light, camera in the hands, etc, help to create a claustrophobic and confidential clime, like nobody knows that someone is filming them. The scenes look incredibly real. Paprika Steen (Helene) and Ulrich Thomsen (Christian) were more than extraordinary. Paprika is a great actress and I can't stand waiting to watch "Idiotern", the second Dogme, in which she's acting again.

"Festen" is not just a worth watching film. It's a worth watching, re-watching, watching again, renting many times and recording to watch it a hundred times. Being the first Dogme, it's a mark in the cinema's history.

Grade - A+

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53 out of 72 people found the following review useful:

Fall into it.

10/10
Author: rallero from Copenhagen
8 February 2003

I'll say 2 things about this movie.

1. This is a danish movie. A danish philosopher known to numerous people, Søren Kierkegaard, talked about emotional contra intellectual. This is a movie you should experience with your feelings, not your brain, turned on. If you do this, you'll smile and cry.

2. The acting is fantastic. It's so realistic, but still "wild" enough to keep you to the screen.

Can't help it, need to give it 10/10. It's not at great MOVIE, but it's a truely great EXPERIENCE. And as far as I'm considered, we're watching movies because we like to experience?

I've never fell into a movie like i fell into this one.

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38 out of 44 people found the following review useful:

Provocative dialogue ensures rapt attention

8/10
Author: raymond-15 from Australia
20 March 2003

Vinterberg's "Festen" which follows the strict guidelines of Dogma 95 could perhaps be hampered in its artistic approach, but not so here. Indeed with the hand-held camera the reality of the scene is intensified to such an extent one feels an integral part of the drama.

It's a family celebration of father Helge's 60th birthday. It's strange though that all the guests seem to arrive at the same time, speeding up the driveway in great excitement. There is lots of noise. hugs and kisses and the camera intruding in a mischievous way.

This family has some terrible dark secrets known to some, not to all. They are divulged by the eldest son Christian (Ulrich Thomson) in his dinner speech toasting his father. This is a wonderful scene, tense, sharp, riveting. The guests are shaken to the core. Is he telling the truth or is he having a wicked game with the assembled company? It's great stuff - really compelling drama.

The history of the family can be pieced together from information revealed in a series of toasts, but Christian's contribution renders the party speechless. It's a fairly noisy film with lots of people talking together, having arguments (Christian's brother Michael {Thomas Bo} has an uncontrollable temper) or screaming in frustration. These out bursts contrast so well with the scenes of stunned silence. They are quite electrifying moments - no words are necessary.

Films like this one make movie-watching well worthwhile. No wonder it won a Jury Prize.

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40 out of 48 people found the following review useful:

There's Something Rotten in the State of Denmark...

Author: Benedict_Cumberbatch from Los Angeles, CA
26 July 2006

"Festen" aka "The Celebration" was the impressive directorial debut of the young Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg ("It's All About Love", "Dear Wendy"), and the first film made according to the rules of the daring Dogme 95 movement. It shows that you don't need big budgets to make a great film. However, Dogme wouldn't work if its films weren't as daring as its ideals of film-making - and "Festen" proved that those guys really have much to say.

"Festen" is an extremely cruel film, and it's somewhat uneasy to watch in some moments. The celebration of the title refers to the 60th birthday of Helge Klingenfeldt-Hansen (Henning Moritzen), who entertains his big family in his castle. But Helge's son, Christian (Ulrich Thomsen, excellent), whose twin sister recently committed suicide, has an important revelation that will surprise - and displease - many people; in the meantime, other secrets are revealed and nobody will get away clean. "Festen" deserved all praise/awards it got in international festivals (it won the Jury Prize at Cannes 98) and is a great introduction to Danish cinema. My vote is 10/10.

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37 out of 44 people found the following review useful:

A knockout!

10/10
Author: teichinri from United States
12 May 2006

So many critics seem to have missed the point of "The Celebration," which is almost unbelievable because it actually does have a point, and I feel like I got it between the eyes with a sledgehammer. This is a movie about, among other things, the power of social conventions, how we depend on them to deal with unpleasantness, and just how stubborn and difficult they can be to circumvent, even when your life depends on it.

What knocks me out is how much I'm convinced by the whole thing. Every sad detail makes perfect sense. There is so much wisdom here that it never overreaches, no matter how deep in the storytellers get.

In particular, the medium of digital video is used in an outstanding way that adds authenticity to the experience. Think about it- most of the hand-held video work we've seen is of our own family events. When we watch the only scene in which Christian weeps, with Gbatokai leaning over and giving moral support, it could almost pass for a candid moment in a homemade documentary.

I've seen a lot of good family dramas, but rarely have I had such an urge to hug the main character and unleash profanity at several of the others.

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35 out of 45 people found the following review useful:

10 out of 10

10/10
Author: neardarkX
5 March 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I think Festen is a fantastic movie. Personally I do not care at all about Dogma rules. Since I had similar childhood experiences, I only care about the story, and to me this is definitely the best movie dealing with the subject of incest I have seen yet. I was suffering with Christian when he finally opened up to his family. It was very moving to see him struggling desperately to make them listen to him despite their violent resistance. And it was a very good feeling to see him succeed in the end. All in all I saw a very touching movie with lots of overwhelming emotions for me.

This movie is special because it shows that the suffering does not end when the children grow up and leave home. And it shows why it is so hard for victims to talk about their experiences by expressing one of their biggest (and unfortunately very realistic) fears: That noone will believe them, and that even their family will refuse to listen to them because they don´t want their illusion of a happy family to be destroyed.

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