After The Wedding - Efter Brylluppet
|Sidse Babett Knudsen||Helene|
|Stine Fischer Christensen||Anna|
|Directed by||Susanne Bier|
When we first meet Danish expatriate Jacob (Mads Mikkelsen), he is passing out food to hungry orphans from the back of a truck in a slum in Mumbai, India (the former Bombay.) When we meet J?rgen (Rolf Lassgard) he is in his mansion in Denmark, reading a bedtime story to his little twin boys. When we meet J?rgen?s wife Helene (Sidse Babett Knudsen) she is reclining naked in a bubble bath, soon to be joined by her fully clothed husband.
These are all good people. Jacob is a selfless, committed social worker. J?rgen is a self-made billionaire, but he?s obviously a nice guy and a devoted family man. He and Helene love each other, and they love their children ? in addition to the twins, there?s 20-year-old Anna (Stine Fischer Christensen), a young beauty who is getting married to Christian (Christian Tafdrup), an employee of her father?s. It?s a happy time. Everybody?s happy.
Back in Mumbai, Jacob is not so happy. He?s informed by the director (Meenal Patel) that the orphanage is going broke. But there?s good news: a billionaire back in Denmark (J?rgen) is interested in giving them a pile of money. There is, however, a catch: he insists that Jacob come to Denmark to meet with him in person. Jacob doesn?t want to go. He doesn?t like Denmark, he doesn?t like rich people. Besides, his special orphan, Pramod (Neeral Mulchandani), has a birthday coming up, and he has promised the boy he?ll be there.
But that?s more than a week away. There should be time to get there and back. Jacob flies to Copenhagen, and meets with J?rgen. Things look promising, but details need to be seen to. Jacob will have to stay over the weekend.
?My daughter is getting married tomorrow,? J?rgen says. ?Come to the wedding.? Jacob really doesn?t want to go, but it?s not easy saying ?no? to a person who is considering giving $12 million to your favorite charity.
He goes to the wedding. And that?s when the trouble starts.
After the Wedding is high-toned soap opera, as emotionally lavish and amply plotted as a 1950s Douglas Sirk melodrama. Family secrets start tumbling out before the bride and groom have made it to ?I do.?
Director Susanne Blier and her co-writer Anders Thomas Jensen have created a complex, sometimes overwrought story filled with parallels, betrayals, machinations, symbols, and metaphors. The walls of J?rgen?s mansion are covered with big game trophy heads, on which the camera likes to linger; outside on the lawn, herds of deer graze unmolested. Life and death, living relationships and dead ones, opposing values, truth and lies, past and future, they?re all reflected in these images.
Moral relativism rears its head as well. Anna, who seems to take an understanding view of her father?s cheating on her mother (?And you did her friend??), later comes unglued when she finds her new husband in bed with an old flame.
One of the more interesting themes of this movie is the question of which is more important to a cause, the man or the money. When Jacob resists returning to Denmark, saying he?s needed in Mumbai, the orphanage director makes it clear that, invaluable though he is, without money the place will have to close. When he gets caught up in the unfolding family secrets at the wedding, secrets which involve him directly, Jacob?s reaction is personal and hostile, which risks jeopardizing his chances of getting the money to save all those orphans back in India. At one point another character puts the question directly to Jacob: ?Think how many you could help ? won?t you sell yourself for that?? And at the end, there is an exchange between Jacob and little Pramod which again reinforces the relative dispensability of the individual, and the importance of a well-financed institution.
After the Wedding calls to mind another Danish film about a family gathering at which long-buried secrets overwhelm the festivities: Festen (The Celebration), Thomas Vinterberg?s stunning look at the unraveling of family values at a patriarch?s birthday weekend. Blier?s movie is softer and sudsier, sustained by some first-rate performances and the director?s sure hand. Mikkelsen will be best remembered as the villainous Le Chiffre, crying blood in the latest James Bond spectacle. He has a chiseled face reminiscent of a Scandinavian Jimmy Smits, and a repressed, contained power that lets you see emotions cooking in liquid nitrogen beneath the steely surface. Knudsen plays Helene as a woman whose past seems a totally accessible part of who she is now. You feel you know her, you knew her years ago, you understand her mistakes and sympathize with her choices.
But it is Lassgard whose ebullient, crafty performance sustains the movie. An overstuffed teddy bear of a man, he moves between self-confidence and self-pity, manipulation and magnanimity. J?rgen is the moving force behind the plot, acting (for reasons which eventually become clear) to put all the wheels in motion. And in the end, he epitomizes the movie?s singular theme of the dispensability of the individual, and the enduring value of money.
© Text 2007 Jonathan Richards - Filmfreak.be