My love affair with Danish film is still ongoing. Over the long weekend I took the time to watch After the Wedding. Directed by Susanne Bier, who made her Hollywood debut with Things We Lost in the Fire, it follows 4 people through a major event that will change them all. Danish wunderkind Anders Thomas Jensen (seriously, is he NOT involved in a Danish film?) co-writes and Mads Mikkelsen (the Samuel L. Jackson of Danish film) stars. The film follows Jacob (Mikkelsen) as he reluctantly returns to Denmark in hopes of gaining funding for his orphanage in India. The investor, Jorgen, invites Jacob to his daughter’s wedding. Turns out it’s Jacob’s daughter and he never knew she existed. Jacob is thrust into the middle of a difficult situation but the film takes some unexpected twists and turns as Jacob and his ex-girlfriend, Helene, are thrust into their past while trying to forge ahead with the future.
I don’t really know what it is about the Danish but they know how to make great films. Bier does a great job of making you root for every character simultaneously. It was what made her magnum opus Open Hearts so enthralling. While Jacob is definitely the main protagonist, you don’t necessarily feel frustrated with the other characters as they put him in this awkward and stressful position of finding out he has a 20some year old daughter.
I don’t know if it’s Bier’s direction or if it’s Jensen’s script input (he also helped on Open Hearts) but both films are really heart wrenching yet it’s not necessarily sad. You really feel for the characters and yet they’re not really given very much background. These character’s mostly exist in the here and now. Some of their pasts are littered here and there but Bier doesn’t waste time on extensive back storys but you don’t need them. You already feel as if you know these characters. Jacob seems like he’s a really loving, caring guy. He really cares for the orphans in India but you find out that when he was with Helene he was a drug using, alcoholic, womanizer and somehow it doesn’t really change your perception of him. You don’t know why he changed, but you assume this is the real him. Back then he was just a lost soul. I can’t really explain how she does it but you really feel like you know these characters.
I think it may come down to that Bier (and Jensen) really know the cardinal ruel of film: show don’t tell. There isn’t much telling. A lot is infered from the interactions between her and Jensen’s characters. And that is what really keeps you glued to the screen.
I haven’t said much about Mikkelsen’s performance, but he’s great. I think that goes without saying. So are the other actors, but Mikkelsen is the only one some of you may know (I don’t know the others). If you don’t know Mads Mikkelsen, he’s Le Chifre. Got it? Ok, well he’s nothing like that in this. I think Le Chiffre is nowhere near his best work, but it’s still outstanding. He does a great job in this one as he always does. It’s almost nauseating how consistently great he is. That goes double for Anders Thomas Jensen. I have yet to see a film he was involved in that wasn’t fantastic.
And with that all I can say is WATCH DANISH FILM! But, seriously, these films are great and I really recommend them. Open Hearts and After the Wedding are superb and much better than half the crap that comes out in this country. These are the films being watched in Denmark. I really envy them for that. I wish our country was as into films like this instead of the gazillion superhero movies coming out everyday. Not to say I don’t like them (I can’t WAIT for Dark Knight) but wouldn’t be great if 40% of our country saw The Visitor?
Please let me know if you’ve seen any of these or any other related Danish films. I’m really interested to hear what you guys think or if you have any recommendations for me. I’m going to review The Pusher Trilogy soon. Have any of you seen that? Let me know if you have.