Dir. Thomas Vinterberg. Denmark-Sweden. 2007. 96mins.
Thomas Vinterberg's artsy, bittersweet comedy, repped by Celluloid Dreams, is only now making its international bow after a disappointing Danish run a year ago. With Teodora Film set to open Italy in December, this funny Festen bowed to a warm audience at the Rome Film Festival and may yet secure further sales.
Featuring a lovelorn country boy as the central character, alongside revelations about lost fathers, a choral denouement and servant-master dynamics, When A Man Comes Home has the feel of a Mozart comic opera. But the film's lightness of touch and nicely casual visual style take the edge off any formalism, and show that the spirit of Dogme has not quite deserted movement co-founder Vinterberg.
Set in a rural Danish town soaked in Mediterranean colour, the story centres on stuttering, fatherless Sebastian (Larsen), a good-looking but deeply insecure lad whose relationship with his sharp, bossy girlfriend Claudia (Olesen) is complicated when his first love, Maria (Neumann), returns home from psychiatric care. All three are employed in the town's main hotel, which is gearing up for the arrival of famous native son Karl Kristian (Knauer), a world-famous opera singer who is to give a concert for the town's 750th anniversary.
Vinterberg's first Danish film after the unsatisfying US hiatus of It's All About Love and Dear Wendy is a tenderly comic affair. Some of the funniest scenes revolve around a prima-donna chef who is drafted in to perform his quasi-spiritual feats of culinary alchemy to keep the star guest happy and ends up having to make do with serving him a glass of water. Knauer is perfect as the fussy male diva, surrounded by assistants who bore him and enjoying his power.
Sebastian's lesbian mother and her partner (who he has been brought up to refer to as Uncle Anna) also have a couple of good one-liners; but Vinterberg is not afraid to switch tonal gear abruptly, as when Maria starts describing the chilling incident that led to her psychiatric-ward sojourn. The film has a nice sense of rhythm, jump-cutting within and between scenesto eliminate the flab between turning points. Anthony Dod Mantle's camerawork contributes, pushing the colour palette into hyper-real mode but maintaining a spontaneous, handheld sense of movement.
Nimbus Film Productions
+ 33 1 4970 0370
Anthony Dod Mantle
Soren B Ebbe
Oliver Moller Knauer
Thomas Bo Larsen
Ronja Mannov Olesen
Helene Reingaard Neumann
Karen Lise Mynster