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Who said secrets aren't fun? Susanne Bier's After The Wedding reveals a
deliciously profound and emotionally-impacting conundrum that draws the
audience into the story early on. As a film technique, Bier's method of
storytelling is effectively engaging. In fact, it's the director's
ability to manipulate our emotions as viewers that makes this film so
wonderfully unique. With the inclusion of a cross-cultural perspective
not typically seen in Nordic film, After the Wedding is one of the more
important films to emerge from Denmark in recent years.
One distinct aspect of the film is its use of raw emotion, a factor rarely seen to this extent in traditional Hollywood films. Much of this quality can be attributed to the film's actors and actresses. Mads Mikkelsen does a superb job playing Jacob, a man who's past roots entwine with the other characters in the film more heavily than he previously assumed. Situated in India, Jacob leaves for Copenhagen to meet with a wealthy man named Jorgen, played by Rolf Lassgård, to receive financial aid. To help get accustomed to Jacob and facilitate his trust, Jorgen invites Jacob to his daughter's wedding that evening. While there, the audience learns of a particular secret that turns out to be an emotional bombshell for both Jacob other members of the wedding.
The film really shines in its use of emotion to drive the story. Indeed, the most powerful moments of the film do take place after the titular wedding. Jacob, who was previously committed to returning to India to partake in his surrogate son's 8th birthday, must make difficult choices in lieu of the truths revealed at the wedding. Jorgen's wife Helene, played by Sidse Babett Knudsen, must conflict with her husband's consistent nondisclosure of the truth. Jorgen's daughter Anna, Stine Fischer Christensen, learns many of the hardships of marriage and commitment. Each of these instances are linked with a particularly poignant and powerful scene that draws the audience into the situation. One scene in particular pulls at our heartstrings, as we uncomfortably watch the previously indomitable Jorgen collapse in a fit of weeping and screaming. Bier manages to successfully make the audience empathize with the characters in the story, a difficult task and something not common in Hollywood convention.
Another element where After The Wedding succeeds is in the portrayal of cross-cultural experiences. Jacob's character is defined by his commitment to social justice. His motivations are clear from the beginning - he desires additional funding for his orphanage. After the wedding, when facts change, Jacob's moral obligations keep him in Denmark to continue doing the morally right thing. Without revealing too much of the film's plot, Jacob evolves into a morally capable character who satisfies the role he was presented. As it turns out, there is a strong Scandinavian presence in many social projects across the globe. It was refreshing to see this illustrated in Jacob's character.
The film also utilized unique techniques to achieve its desired emotional response. Many of the tense moments employ a cinematographic technique where the camera zooms in on a character's eyes with a shallow focus. While not practical from a storytelling standpoint, the viewer is immediately linked to the deeper thoughts and emotions of the character by focusing on the eye. Some say the eye is the gateway into the soul, and Bier clearly understood this concept. Another technique that impacts our emotions is the use of unusual jump cuts within the same shot. Often, Bier will reveal emotion by showing instead of telling. These jarring cuts indicate that something is wrong without explicitly stating it though dialogue. One could make the argument that this style of film-making is unique to Beir as a female director. It's interesting to witness character development through a female lens as opposed to the traditional masculine one. More time is spent on character relationships and action implications than a Hollywood film, which would either spend the time attempting to add humor or driving the plot forward with melodramatic instances.
After The Wedding is unlike other films in that it manages to hook the viewer in an emotionally engaging way. Through its unusual but effective camera and editing tricks, refreshingly realistic perspectives of Scandinavian archetypes and a compelling storyline, Susanne Bier has produced a wonderful piece. Don't let this film be a secret.
In a very poor area of India, the altruist Danish Jacob Pederson (Mads
Mikkelsen) teaches and nurses children in an orphanage and has raised
the eight year old Pramod since he was a foster baby. When Jacob is
invited to travel to Copenhagen to meet the wealthy businessman Jørgen
Lennart Hannson (Rolf Lassgård) that intends to donate a large amount
to the orphanage, the reluctant Jacob is convinced by the director Mrs.
Shaw (Meenal Patel) that he must travel for the good of the children,
and he promises to Pramod to be back on his birthday on the next week.
Jacob has a meeting with the self-made tycoon that promises a donation
of one million-dollar and is invited to go to the wedding of his
daughter Anna Hannson (Stine Fischer Christensen) on the next day. In
the wedding, Jacob sees Jørgen's wife Helene Hannson (Sidse Babett
Knudsen), who had a past with him, and discovers a family secret that
will affect his and the Hannson's lives.
"Efter Brylluppet" is an intense and engaging family drama. The beginning (and the end) of this movie discloses the poor conditions of people in India and gives the false idea that the plot would be about the social differences between India and Denmark. Then there is a twist in the unpredictable story focusing serendipity and the personal dramas with many other discoveries of the lead characters and the masterminded plan of the clever Jørgen. All the characters are believable and human supported by magnificent direction of Susanne Blier that plays the emotions and feelings of the viewers; an awesome screenplay and top-notch performances. Sidse Babett Knudsen and Stine Fischer Christensen are very beautiful women and I really loved this feature. My vote is nine.
Title (Brazil): "Depois do Casamento" ("After the Wedding")
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I am not a huge movie watcher, and I don't tend to fall in love with
the films that I do see, but After the Wedding might be my favorite
film of all time. It has everything necessary to draw an audience in: a
slightly unbelievable (and unpredictable!) premise, family tragedy,
scenes in India, and a great ending that left me in tears. While I
thought everything about the film, including the acting, directing, and
cinematography was phenomenal, what really makes this film stand out is
the variety and depth of the relationships found between the
The first characters we get to know in the film are Jacob, a middle-aged but still very attractive Danish man living in India, and Pramod, a seven-year-old boy who lives in the orphanage/school that Jacob has helped to establish. Jacob has developed a deep relationship with Pramod, who has lived at the school since infant hood, and Jacob serves as something of a surrogate father to the boy. When Jacob leaves for Denmark to search for more funding for the school, Pramod makes him promise to return by his birthday. Jacob agrees, but their relationship becomes complicated as Jacob is detained in Denmark, missing Pramod's eighth birthday and breaking his trust. At the end of the movie there is a break in their relationship which causes Jacob a lot of pain, but is unavoidable.
Another interesting relationship explored in After the Wedding is that of Jacob and Anna. Through a series of coincidences, Jacob discovers that he has a twenty-year-old illegitimate daughter in Denmark who has been raised by her mother and stepfather, Helene and Jørgen. Jørgen is a wealthy man and is considering giving Jacob money to fund the school. He encourages Jacob to build a relationship with Anna and to reconnect with Helene after so many years. Anna knew that Jørgen was not her biological father, but she loves him as if he were because she has lived with him her whole life, and she is not sure what to make of Jacob. Jacob is furious that Helene never told him that she was pregnant, but also seems unsure of how to act around Anna. One scene in the film shows them sitting together somewhat awkwardly over dinner while Anna shows Jacob a photo album that documents her childhood. Jacob seems sad that he missed most of her young life, but you can see that he feels more of a connection with Pramod, the surrogate son he left in India, than he does with his biological daughter. She is an adult and has had Jørgen as a father figure for most of her life, so there doesn't seem to be a place for him.
The most complex and tension-filled relationship in the movie is between Jørgen and Jacob. At first, it seems as if Jørgen holds all the power: he is older, wealthy, and apparently figures out exactly who Jacob is as soon as they meet. Jacob, on the other hand, is just trying to appease Jørgen so that he can get the funding for his school. Jørgen is extremely manipulative, detaining Jacob in Denmark when he obviously wants to get back to India, and eventually stipulating that Jacob must relocate permanently to Denmark if he wants to get the several million dollars that Jørgen is capable of donating. We find out later that Jørgen is terminally ill and is only trying to assure that Helene and Anna will have someone to care for them after he dies, but until that information was revealed I was very suspicious of Jørgen's motives. Jacob realizes that he is being manipulated and is frustrated by Jørgen's behavior, but cannot bring himself to turn his back on the money that will save his school.
For me, the most moving part of After the Wedding was finding out about Jørgen's illness and understanding his motives behind the manipulation of Jacob. I was afraid that he meant Jacob ill or that he was going to do something bad to him, but in the end he just turned out to be doing what he thought was best for his family. Whether or not it truly was the best thing to do is open for interpretation. Watching Jørgen deal with the reality of his illness and sharing it with his family was one of the most powerful things I have seen in a film. It was jarring to realize that he had had pure intentions the whole time, was really a good man, and was going to die anyway while his family went on without him, possibly with Jacob in his place. After the Wedding is a refreshing reminder that there really are good people in the world, and that they will do almost anything to protect those they love. Great film!
I may be getting too sentimental in my old age but this film was so
touching that I actually cried through quite a bit of it. What I found
so touching was how essentially good almost all the characters were.
The central character Jacob Pederson (Mads Mikkelsen) despite a nearly constant scowl on his face or a look of deep concern and perhaps worry is a man who really cares about right and wrong and other people. This is a sharp change from his misspent youth when all he cared about were...well what many of us cared about, having a good time. Now he runs an orphanage in Mumbai.
While Jacob is the central character the most interesting character and the one with the biggest heart is the very rich Jorgen Lennart Hannson (Rolf Lassgard). Jacob has gone to Denmark to convince Jorgen to support his orphanage. It isn't clear that Jorgen will do so. He has choices for charity. But when Jorgen invites Jacob to his daughter's elaborate wedding, things change.
I won't say any more about the plot since it is such an interesting and surprising plot. What I will say is that when Jorgen learns who Jacob really is in relationship to his family (and vice-versa!) he does something so caring, so surprising and so correct and so magnanimous that it will warm the cockles of the coldest heart and bring to tears the most cynical of viewers.
And then we are back to Jacob and how he deals with what Jorgen has concocted. And he too does the right thing even though it completely changes his life and costs him something dear to his heart..
I wish I could be more concrete. But see the film and I think you'll agree that this is the kind of movie that will make you feel good about people. It's a shame that it's rated "R." Perhaps if you have a tweener or even a bright 10-year-old you can watch it together. And you can talk about it. It is a great relationship film, and a great film for teaching young people about the real choices in life that can come up The acting was excellent. Mikkelsen brought the strength of character and a justified pride to the role of Jacob while Lassgard was warm and real and smart as Jorgen. Both Sidse Babett Knudsen, who played Jorgen's wife, and Stine Fischer Christensen, who played the bride, were intense and so vivid I felt I could touch them. (The intense close-ups on the eyes and facesand I mean intensemade the actors almost leap off the screen.) But most of my praise must go to Susanne Bier who wrote the story and directed and to Anders Thomas Jensen who wrote the screenplay. The story and the movie are simply brilliant.
Dennis Littrell, author of the movie review collection, "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!"
VERY disappointing after all the great reviews.
The story is maudlin, predictable, and completely unbelievable; and it takes itself so seriously that it practically begs to be laughed at. The direction is sloppy and plodding, leaving out what matters and leaving in what doesn't. The cinematographer used a hand-held camera for tight closeups far too often, for no reason, so that often the screen is filled with one huge head (sometimes one huge eye) bobbling around.
All the actors are mediocre at best; none of the relationships are believable; and all the characters were either so badly written or so badly acted that I never believed or cared about any of them - except the tough, smart, adorable little boy in India, who was on screen for no more than ten minutes.
I don't understand why Mads Mikkelsen is so popular; he acts and looks like an unwrapped Egyptian mummy. David Dencik, another Scandinavian actor, is infinitely more interesting and attractive; unfortunately he's not on hand to save this leaden turkey. This was my first and (I hope) my last Susanne Bier movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It seems that France isn't the only country in Europe where female directors turn out classy movies. Susanne Bier, a new name to me, hits one out of the park with this Art House entry. It takes its time in getting where it's going and there are those who may find the top-and-tail Indian sequences superfluous and leading man Mads Mikkelsen - the heavy in Casino Royale - doesn't do expression, which means that if you don't dig The Great Stone Face you'll be disappointed but against this is some top-drawer thesping from the likes of Rolf Lassgard as a millionaire businessman, Sidste Babett Knudsen as his wife and Stine Fisher Christensen as their daughter. Mikkelsen is a transplanted Dane now living in India, running an orphanage and possibly atoning for a mis-spent youth on the side. A Danish philanthropist shows interest in making a bequest but for reasons best known as Plot #4a; Subsection 5, he has to go to Copenhagen and cosy up to the fairy godfather. Reluctantly he agrees and when he gets there it coincides with the wedding of the businessman's daughter, to which he is invited. You could have knocked me down with a fender (thanks to Dorothy Parker, from whom I stole that) when it turns out that the businessman's wife is Mikkelsen's ex-girl friend which makes her daughter ... well, I won't spoil it for you (and if you haven't guessed WHAT it makes her then I COULDN'T spoil it for you. From then on it's angst, tears, sturm, drang, the whole nine yards but it's also Class and Style. It's not everybody's cup of schnapps by a long way but if you enjoy Quality you'll enjoy this one.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Susanne Bier depicts the story of an orphanage manager living in India
and a wealthy Danish family in a powerful and moving film that
addresses a number of aspects of human relationships. In her film, Bier
provides an authentic portrayal of love within individual relationships
while examining the nature of control and choice. After the Wedding
follows a Danish aid worker, named Jacob (Mads Mikkelsen) who runs and
orphanage and provides for under-privileged children in India. Jacob is
also the surrogate father of Pramod (Neeral Mulchandani), a young boy
who lives with him at the orphanage. When the orphanage requires
funding, Jacob must travel to Denmark to meet with the benefactor,
Jørgen Hannson (Rolf Lassgård), a confident self-made billionaire.
Jørgen's daughter, Anna (Stine Fischer Christensen), is getting married
to Christian (Christian Tafdrup), one of Jørgen's employees, soon after
Jacob arrives and Jørgen spontaneously invites Jacob to the wedding.
Jacob runs into his former lover, Helene (Sidse Babett Knudsen) who
happens to be Jørgen's wife. As the celebration unfolds, Jacob learns
that Anna is actually his own daughter, and Jørgen's intentions may not
be what he expected.
Love is emphasized in a number of relationships between the characters in After the Wedding. Perhaps the prominent example of love is seen between Jørgen and Helene. Unique about the portrayal of this relationship is its realistic quality. The love between Jørgen and Helene is seen throughout the film. Their interaction at the beginning of the film in the bathroom establishes the positive tone for their relationship and continues to the end with their genuine happiness together at Jørgen's birthday celebration. But Bier also illustrates the conflict and tension between the couple. The scene in Jørgen's office is a prime example, demonstrating a degree of frustration between them. Ultimately, what is seen is a relationship that is not perfect, but realistic, marked by a wide range of emotion, both positive and negative. The result is a natural portrayal of love between Jørgen and Helene, highlighting its strength and ability to transcend the minor conflicts in their relationship. The recent marriage of Anna and Christian exemplifies love in a contrasting light. Christian's adulterous affair exposes a common harsh reality of love, and the emotional effect when it is lost. Jørgen and Anna demonstrate the reciprocal love between father and daughter. Evidence of this is seen in Jørgen's joy during Anna's wedding and reception and, in an opposite sense, Anna's grief following the discovery of her father's terminal illness. After the Wedding presents love as a diverse emotion and rather than a superficial portrayal, love is depicted in a raw and natural fashion.
The film's natural portrayal of love is a result, in part, by the brilliant performances by the leading roles. Rolf Lassgård stands out in this regard, with a superb ability to portray the confidence and power that is such a part of Jørgen's character. His final scene is the most raw, unrestrained display of emotion I have seen in a film. In addition to the outstanding acting, a number of filming techniques contribute to this film's strength. Bier utilizes extreme close-up shots, primarily of the characters' eyes, providing the audience with a more intimate connection to the character and their thoughts and emotions. Bier also includes a number of similar shots focused on the eyes of dead animals in Jørgen's study, as well as shots of dead vegetation, a unique and chilling method of foreshadowing. The music used enhances the emotional effect on the audience, specifically in the final scenes. A song by the Icelandic band Sigur Rós is used in the final moments of the film to produce one of the most moving scenes I have experienced in film. The filming style uses many natural elements, including natural lighting and the use of hand-held cameras, providing a human- centric perspective of the scene. In all, these techniques form a simplistic and tasteful style that puts the focus on the characters and their relationships.
After the Wedding not only examines love through relationships, but also the significance and nature of control and choice. Bier addresses control most prominently with Jørgen and Jacob. Jørgen, the self-made billionaire, is accustomed to high degree of control and power over many aspects of his life. However, control over his life is lost with the onset of his terminal illness. Jørgen notes on man's inability to control everything, which has recently become a very harsh reality for Jørgen. In his loss of control, Jørgen makes an attempt to control what he will leave behind, though not maliciously by any means, rather to ensure the well-being of the family he loves. Jacob is Jørgen's primary focus, but even as Jørgen attempts to control him, Jacob remains in control. Though Jacob eventually fills the role as a fatherly figure in Jørgen's family, as Jørgen had intended, Jacob's decision is independent of Jørgen's incentives and reflects Jacob's realization of his responsibility to care for his daughter and her mother. The film presents the idea that control and power does not always lie in the hands of those one would expect. In addition, Bier addresses choice most prominently with Jacob. Jacob is left with an extremely difficult choice. He is divided between India and Denmark and must choose to sacrifice his established life in India and his fatherhood of Pramod, in order to become the father figure Jørgen's family.
After the Wedding is an incredibly powerful and moving film, which is accomplished through a filming style that highlights characters and their relationships, and the authentic portrayal of love and raw emotion. Through this film, Bier not only provides an insight as to the nature of love and relationships, but also to that of choice and control in way that leaves the moral judgments of the character's choices in the hands of the audience.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
After the Wedding (Efter brylluppet, 2006) seems like it should be a
large movieit begins internationally, depicting issues like poverty
and homelessness that affect millions around the globe. Quickly though,
the focus zooms in on several people who are very closely connected
though somewhat of an odd history, forcing the viewer to examine what
exactly is required to love someone. Jacob (Mads Mikkelson) manages an
Indian orphanage, but is called back to Denmark by a businessman to try
and secure more funds for the orphanage. He is offered the funding, but
of course there is a twist, made clear following a series of big
reveals; Jørgen (Rolf Lassgård), the businessman, requires Jacob to
remain in Denmark and begin managing some of the company. As Jacob is
actually the biological father of Jørgen's daughter, Jørgen wants him
close by to care for the family following his impending death. The film
explores the ideas of control, love, and doing one's duty with an
interesting take on what constitutes a family.
There are several aspects of control seen throughout the film. Jørgen, as a powerful businessman, is used to having people do his bidding. He also knows that he is dying, resulting in his necessary composure despite such unfortunate circumstances. Troubles arise when he tries to extend his control to Jacob, a man who is used to being independent. Jacob resists, feeling that Jørgen is trying to buy him, but gives in when he discovers the exact nature of the request. Helene is also trying to control the situationshe is understandably mad at Jacob for cheating on her, and initially tries to restrict his contact with the family and herself. She eventually sees his value though, leading to the next theme of the film: love.
After the Wedding contains numerous interesting relationships, mainly ones that aren't necessarily seen in many other contexts. In India, Jacob is especially close to one of the boys at the orphanage. He acts as a father figure to the boy, but is ultimately forced to leave and has to go back on promises made. The dynamic between the adults in the film is what is the most fascinating though; Jacob is Anna's biological father, from a previous relationship with Helene. Helene then married Jørgen in part to secure a future for Anna. Jørgen is dying though, and wants Jacob to be around to support the family. Jacob's connection to Anna is apparent, although awkward at first. When they first talk in his hotel room, the tension between them is almost painful to watch. Anna begins to open up to Jacob though, which eventually causes Helene to realize that she does still care for him. While she never answers the question about whether or not she'll get back together with Jacob, it's clear that the family cares for him and he is present in their lives.
The final theme is an exploration of what it means to do one's duty, especially in keeping with promises that were made. Jacob is the primary vehicle through which we explore this. He is forced back to Denmark to secure more funds for the orphanage, despite a strong desire to remain with the children. Once there, he puts up with a seemingly distant and eccentric Jørgen in the hope of keeping the orphanage open. Jørgen's obligation to his family drives him to find Jacob in the first place, and admit to himself that he must take action to secure their future.
The film makes use of many close ups, especially on the face and eyes. In a story so driven by emotion, it makes sense that this would be a focus. Frequently, the larger picture is ignored for a close look at exactly what each character is feeling at the moment. Their emotions are strong and complicated, so taking a moment to dissect them is really helpful.
I enjoyed After the Wedding, but it didn't grip me as completely as other films I've seen. However, I think the suspense of the reveal was ruined by the strange actions of Jørgen that led up to it. There were also times where I felt the stony faced acting could have shown a little more depth. I was also ultimately unsatisfied by some aspects of the endingafter so much build up, I feel the viewers deserved slightly more. The film presents interesting ideas, but the lack of resolution means that some of the impact is lost. It's worth a watch, but not one of my favorites.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Danish film, After the Wedding, directed by Susanne Bier is
beautifully formulated to make you cry, laugh, think, and cringe. This
film includes several multifaceted characters that constantly keep you
guessing as to who they are as a person. Jacob, the main character,
lives in India and works for an orphanage, he travels to Denmark to
meet with a millionaire, Jørgen, in hopes of getting a loan to keep the
orphanage from shutting down. Jørgen is married to Helene whom has
three children, two younger boy twins and a daughter whom we assume is
in her early twenties. The daughter, Anna, gets married to Christian
early on in the film. After the wedding, as one can presume from the
title, everything in this family dynamic changes and secrets from the
past begin to unfold. The audience soon finds out that Jacob is Anna's
father and Helene's past lover. The rest of this drama filled film
deals with the themes of family relationships and morality, while the
director Bier implements extreme-close ups in order to expose the
characters raw emotions.
The director of this film, Susanne Bier, is known for her somewhat obsessive interest in family relationships. After the Wedding, seemingly deals with every kind of family relationship one can think up, even those that are not related by blood. Relationships between parents and their children stand out at the most important and loving aspect of this film. During the first ten minutes of this film both Jacob and Jørgen are introduced by showing their love toward children. Jacob has somewhat adopted an Indian child, Pramod, who he raised since he was a week old, when Jacob must leave Pramod for Denmark you can see the love in his heart for the child. Jørgen is first introduced as he reads a children's book to his twin boys and impersonates the voice of a duck. It is clear from the beginning that both of these men would do anything to help these children and that is why this film is so special and heart wrenching. At Anna's wedding it is announced in her speech that Jørgen is not her biological father, but that still loves him just as much. This idea of being a parent to someone who is not your biological child comes up in this movie from both Jacob and Jargons point of view. Other types of relationships are also portrayed however, such as struggling marriages, indefinitely, death and jealousy. Through all of these intermingled relationships a sense of maturity and calmness resonates over a majority of the characters. Jørgen is secretly dealing with his impending death, but other characters such as Jacob, Anna and Helene all figure out how to work with the situation they are dealt with while exuding love as much as they possibly can. In some ways this film is a lesson to all about how to deal with adverse situations.
The morality of this film struck me due to the fact that this film lent no easy choices or happy endings. Constantly the characters had to deal with situations regarding right and wrong. Jacob, who loved India, had to make the decision of weather to save the children of the orphanage that he loves, or to live in Denmark, which he despised. Jørgen had to make the decision to help the orphan children financially and how to protect his family after he has passed away. Anna had to decide weather or not to accept her new father into her life. Helene had to deal with the implications of telling her daughter about Jacob, and also weather or not to tell Anna about Jargons illness. It always seemed that one of these characters was going to be morally corrupt and end up disappointing the audience. But I never felt that way, which surprised me because in the end I sympathized with ever character, apart from the cheating groom Christian. Jacob kept asking Jørgen, "Why are you doing this?", "What do you get out of this?", "What is in this for you?". Although the audience did not find out until the end of the film that Jørgen was going to die and that he wanted Jacob in Denmark to take care of his family, he also donated over 12 million dollars to the orphanage. You could sense that Jørgen was a good person; he was just dealing with dark burdens inside that made him seem insincere. Was it wrong for him to donate the money out of selfish reward? Maybe, however all parties involved benefited and some hope remained for the grieving Danish family and the impoverished Indian orphans. That is always Susanne Biers goal, to implement very intense story lines that deal with many uncomfortable situations, but in the end leaving the audience with hope for the future.
Some believe that all of ones emotions can be seen through their eyes. After the Wedding in every single scene includes an extreme close-up of characters eyes at pivotal emotional times. Whether it is that a character is tearing up, concerned, happy, or confused, the close-up camera shots are able to force the audience to feel their emotions. An example that includes all of the main characters is when Anna is making her emotional wedding speech; a close-up of her eyes shows her love towards her parents, as Jargons eyes are beaming at the kind words. Jacobs's eyes are in panic as he figures out that Anna is his child, while Helene's eyes show sorrow, as she knows that everything from that moment on would change. Even the foreshadowing of Jørgen's death includes the dead fox and deer eyes. This technique, following Bier's interest in Dogme 95, is instrumental in depicting the characters raw emotions as opposed to relying on background special effects. This excellent film will make you think hard about life, as it is universally relatable.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Bombay. An orphanage, filled with rambunctious kids. The striking face
of Denmark's biggest star, Mads Mikkelsen, is among the few adults. His
character, Jacob, has been working in humanitarian efforts in India for
the past twenty years but is in desperate need of funds from Denmark in
order to prevent this orphanage from closing. Much to his disliking, he
must return to his native country to secure the future for the beloved
children. One of the orphan boys who Jacob considers family, Pramods,
asks Jacob what the Denmark is like. He replies that he does not like
the people because they are all rich. If he were rich, Pramods says,
then he would be happy. The scene shifts suddenly to a man in his car
listening to the American hit, "It's Raining Men," instantly shifting
in tone from humility and worry to one of confidence and security: he
is carefree. We soon find out this man is Jogen (Rolf Lassgård), one of
Denmark's wealthy businessmen. Jacob's idea of selfish and coldhearted
rich people, however, is soon contradicted, as Jorgen reads goofy
stories aloud to his sons and then playfully slides into his wife's
bubble bath, fully clothed. He appears not to be a ruthless egomaniac,
but a loving father and husband. When Jacob leaves for Denmark, he
plans to be business partners with Jorgen, promising Pramods that he
will be back in Bombay in time for his 8th birthday. Due to a few
unexpected plot-twists, however, Jacob finds himself much more
intertwined in Jorgen's life than he ever imagined.
When Jacob meets Jorgen about funding the orphanage, Jorgen is completely disinterested and interrupts Jacob frequently to ask if he wants a drink (he supplies one even after Jacob replies, no). After their rude meeting, Jorgen insists that Jacob comes to his daughter's wedding the following day, a strange demand seeing as they had never met before this brief interview. At the wedding, Jorgen's wife, Helene (Sidse Babett Knudsen), sees Jacob enter, and a look of disbelief and dread fills her eyes. Directly after this, the first plot-twist appears, undisguised and melodramatic: Jorgen's daughter Anna (Stine Fischer Christensen) is not his biological daughter. We instantly understand the meaning behind Helene's troubled gaze: Jacob is Anna's father.
Director Susanne Bier's determination to make films that both utilize artistic methods and entertain is evident as she weaves together an engaging plot with symbolic images. Using extreme close-ups on the actor's lips, eyes, and fingertips, she is able to communicate the subtle nuances in the characters' expressions and movements. When Jacob bursts into Helene and Jorgen's house, demanding to talk to Helene about Anna, even the animal heads on the walls get a close-up, staring knowingly as though they have overheard each and every secret in this grand estate. After confronting his ex-girlfriend, Helene about her deception, Jacob threatens to tell Anna if she does not. Soon after, Jacob opens his hotel door to the doe-eyed Anna, waiting to come in. Finally reunited, they begin to get to know one another and it appears as though After the Wedding will be a story of how to overcome deception and begin anew. However, Bier has another trick up her sleeve.
We witnessed Jorgen become more and more embittered as the film goes on, guzzling down alcohol until he is hopelessly drunk. Helene, a compassionate and strong woman decides after a particularly nasty argument with Jorgen that something is not right and decides to investigate. She opens his hidden safe to reveal a stash of prescriptions. Jorgen is dying. Suddenly the images of dead flowers and the glazed eyes of the animals mounted on the wall take on an entirely different meaning. They have been symbols for the death by which Jorgen is constantly surrounded, as he puts on a show for the sake of his family.
Knowing that Jorgen has brought Jacob back to Denmark to replace himself when he dies, the characters must decide what their definition of family is and what duties are implied with it. Jacob is torn between his new daughter, Anna, and his family back in Bombay, Helene and Anna maneuver a changing mother-daughter relationship while coming to terms with the looming death of their husband and father, respectively. Stine Fischer Christensen's raw performance when Anna confronts her father about keeping his illness a secret is phenomenal, second only to Rolf Lassgård's heart wrenching scene when Jorgen breaks down from fear of dying, collapsing in sobs and throwing his body on the floor in a disturbing defiance, while Helene keeps her arms around him, powerless to ease his pain.
This crushing moment puts in the hearts of everyone watching the question of how one can live nobly and fully. Jorgen's selflessness shows Jacob that the line Helen spoke to him early in the film, "you don't have to be poor to be a good person," is undeniably true and that there is often more than just one honorable choice. Before his premature death, Jorgen leaves Jacob with the choice to return to the children in Bombay or to live in Denmark and support his own daughter, Anna and former lover, Helene while funding the orphanage from afar. The question After the Wedding raises is, ultimately, what is family? And How far would you go for yours?
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