Festen (1998)

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AKA: The Celebration
Directed by: Thomas Vinterberg
Starring: Ulrich Thomsen (Christian), Henning Moritzen (Father), Birthe Neumann (Mother), Paprika Steen (Helene), Thomas Bo Larsen (Michael), Bjarne Henriksen (Chef), Trine Dyrholm (Waitress)
Country: Denmark, Scandinavian Cinema, European Cinema
Language: Danish (English Subtitles)
Runtime: 01:40:48
Genres: Old-Young Relationships, Siblings-Family, Incest, Domestic Abuse

Plot – Spoilers:
The wealthy, respected and powerful head of a family is celebrating his 60th birthday. The festivities are at his sprawling hotel in the countryside and invitees include family-friends and relatives and his two sons and daughter. The eldest son Christian has a restaurant in Paris while his sister Helene is a singer with a dubious career. The youngest Michael has degenerated into trash in his father’s eyes – and his sole claim to fame is that he’s the only one with kids.

A pall of gloom is discernible owing to the suicide of Christian’s twin sister who recently killed herself in the hotel. But everyone seems eager to brush it aside and engage in a weekend of revelry. Christian however has something he needs to talk about and uses the occasion of a toast to shock everyone.

Festen is a beautiful take on family secrets, and how family and friends would often prefer to hush things up, if the other available option is dealing with extreme discomfort.

4 thoughts on “Festen (1998)

  • November 23, 2019 at 5:58 pm

    This site just gets better and better. This is an awesome movie..

  • November 23, 2019 at 6:14 pm

    I’ve seen this movie a few times, absolute classic. It was the first Dogme 95 film (its full title in Denmark is Dogme #1 – Festen). Dogme films are governed by a manifesto that insists on specific rules, which are
    1. Shooting must be done on location. Props and sets must not be brought in (if a particular prop is necessary for the story, a location must be chosen where this prop is to be found).

    2. The sound must never be produced apart from the images or vice versa. (Music must not be used unless it occurs where the scene is being shot.)

    3. The camera must be hand-held. Any movement or immobility attainable in the hand is permitted.
    The film must be in colour. Special lighting is not acceptable. (If there is too little light for exposure the scene must be cut or a single lamp be attached to the camera.)

    4. Optical work and filters are forbidden.
    The film must not contain superficial action. (Murders, weapons, etc. must not occur.)

    5.Temporal and geographical alienation are forbidden. (That is to say that the film takes place here and now.)

    6. Genre movies are not acceptable.

    7. The film format must be Academy 35 mm.

    8. The director must not be credited.

    So it creates a very pure film, just reliant on a great performances and story. And this movie is a great example…

  • March 21, 2020 at 6:55 pm

    I saw this film in a German cinema just after its release. At the time, the use of a hand-held, video-type camera was entirely new and it created an unprecedented feeling of intimacy. Indeed, I remember feeling embarrassed when Christian started his speech as if I were taking part in the proceedings and I had just realized what was about to happen. I feel a lot of what makes the film so powerful was actually due to the decisions made off-camera. For example, it would have been easy to have afforded Christian’s character more authority and a sense of triumphalism, but it is the combination of stoicism, bravery and vulnerability that makes the character so compelling. The father figure is even more refined, in my opinion, and it is the brilliance of Henning Moritzen, who played the character, that we are inclined to feel slightly embarrassed at feeling some compassion towards him in the end.

    Of course, the theme of the hushed-up transgressions of a family patriarch, whose power was absolute and incontestable, was one that found resonance with a good deal of people from my generation and I’m sure it was an almost painful cinematic experience for many of us.

    This film should be near the top of any greatest film list. It is as profound as a Dostoyevsky novel and played with formiddable taste and skill.

  • April 1, 2020 at 10:26 am

    Trine is so fucking hot. I dream fucking her pink asshole all day long.


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