Dir: Susanne Bier. Den. 2006.122mins.
The desperate conflict between individual actions andcollective responsibility is explored to devastating effect in After The Wedding.The latest feature from director Susanne Bier, it shows a powerful command ofcraft and narrative as it unfolds an emotionally complex and gripping saga ofmoral dilemmas and the way good intentions can create impossible situations.
Satisfying on both anintellectual and emotional level, this should have a universal appeal to adultviewers in search of challenging and rewarding human drama. Star Mads Mikkelsen gives a rich,heartfelt performance as the centre of the story and his profile-raisingappearance as the villain in the imminent Bond blockbuster Casino Royale should only increase theattention focused on this Danish foreign language Oscar submission and enhanceits prospects of increasing the international returns achieved by previousSusanne Bier films Open Hearts (2002)and Brothers (2004). IFC Films hastaken US rights.
One of the key figures inthe resurgence of Danish cinema over the past decade, Anders Thomas Jensen hasestablished himself as a successful director - The Green Butchers (2003), Adam'sApples (2005) etc - but remains a ubiquitous screenwriter with an abilityto combine quality and quantity. His smart screenplay for After The Wedding is the sturdy foundationon which everything else rests as it stays one step ahead of the audience. Itsilences any doubts that may arise over apparent coincidences or contrivances andbuilds to a point where everything just glides into place and the biggerpicture is revealed in all its complexity.
The story begins in one ofIndia's poorest regions where Jacob (Mads
Mikkelsen) runs an orphanage. Against his betterjudgment, he is persuaded to fly to Copenhagen for a meeting with philanthropicbusinessman Jorgen (Rolf Lassgard) who might bepersuaded to secure the financial future of the orphanage.
At first, it seems that thefilm will be a study in contrasts, the poverty of India juxtaposed with theaffluence of Copenhagen where Jacob is located in a luxury penthouse suite andJorgen is blessed with wealth and a seemingly idyllic existence. Intimations ofsomething different come in Jorgen's treatment of Jacob; he dangles the carrot ofa million dollar gift for each of the next four years but makes no firmcommitment. Instead, he invites him to his daughter's wedding the next daywhere it becomes apparent that Jacob once knew Jorgen's wife.
Further revelations merelyadd to the richness of the storyline and the film grows progressively morecompelling as we become aware of the full repercussions of Jacob's visit homeand Jorgen's true intentions.
Susanne Bier has afascination for stories in which seemingly settled lives are disrupted byunexpected events. She proves a perceptive observer of human behaviour as theconsequences unfold and with its crisp focus and expertly judged performances, After The Wedding isone of her finest achievements.
Its true pleasure lies inthe way it takes all the elements of a classic Douglas Sirk-stylemelodrama (guilty family secrets, betrayal, fragile relationships etc) andweaves them into something much more intense and immediate. Everything thatseems overwrought or too much of a coincidence is eventually seen to make senseand it all builds to the question of where true responsibility lies.
A versatile stalwart ofDanish cinema, Mikkelsen is currently giving some ofthe best performances of his career. Here, he gives a very convincingperformance of a man fiercely committed to his work and convinced that he ismaking a difference in the world only to find that his global concerns may haveobscured more important matters much closer to his own heart. There is anemotional conviction and honesty conveyed in every step of his journey and heis well supported, especially by Lassgard, who isallowed to reveal both the selfless impulses and vulnerability of hischaracter.
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Peter Aalbaek Jensen
Sisse Graum Jorgensen
Anders Thomas Jensen
Pernille Bech Christensen
Sidse Babett Knudsen