The CelebrationJune 19, 1998
At Helge's 60th birthday party, some unpleasant family truths are revealed.
Release Year: 1998
Rating: 8.1/10 (35,216 voted)
Stars: Ulrich Thomsen, Henning Moritzen, Thomas Bo Larsen
The Father turns 60. His family, which is a big one of the kind, gathers to celebrate him on a castle. Everybody likes and respects the father deeply…or do they? The Youngest Son is trying to live up to The Father's expectations. He is running a grill-bar in a dirty part of Copenhagen. The oldest son runs a restaurant in France, while the sister is a anthropologist. The older sister has recently committed suicide and the father asks the oldest son to say a few words about her, because he is afraid he will break into tears if he does it himself. The oldest son agrees without arguments. Actually he has already written two speeches. A yellow and a green one. By the table, he asks the father to pick a speech. The father chooses green. The oldest son announces that this is the Speech of Truth. Everybody laughs, except for the father who gets a nervous look on his face. For he knows that the oldest son is about to reveal the secret of why the oldest sister killed herself.
Writers: Thomas Vinterberg, Mogens Rukov
Faderen – Helge
Thomas Bo Larsen
Moderen – Else
Toastmasteren – Master of Ceremonies
Kokken – Kim
Onklen – Uncle
Receptionisten – Receptionist
Lene Laub Oksen
Søsteren – Sister
Every family has a secret.
Release Date: 19 June 1998
Filming Locations: Skjoldenæsholm, Sjælland, Denmark
Box Office Details
Opening Weekend: $27,621
(11 October 1998)
(31 December 1998)
Did You Know?
Thomas Vinterberg "confessed" to having covered a window during the shooting of one scene, which is a breaking of two Dogme rules – no bringing props onto the set, and no use of special lighting.
Crew or equipment visible:
In an early scene, a cameraman can be seen reflected in a bedroom mirror (director Thomas Vinterberg noticed this but kept it in).
[on his cellphone]
Christian speaking… Hi, I'm here now. I landed this morning. What? Er… Washed? I shaved at the airport if you must know. I shaved at the airport if you must know! I'm fine… right now I'm looking across the fields. At the land of my father. It's beautiful. It makes me want to move back for good, but that'd be problematical. I'll make it. Yes, I suppose it will be… shocking. What?… You're dropping out. O.K. Bye.
Vinterberg achieves brilliant storytelling using Dogme 95
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
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'
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.