A different kind of film
11 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
The first film following the Dogme-rules is Thomas Vinterberg's 'Festen'. He and famous director Lars von Trier, who's 'Idioterne' is the second Dogme-film, want to attack the "auteurs theory" that claims that only one person, the director, is really responsible for the finished product. Vinterberg and Von Trier try to show that this does not make any sense. In a way they show us, but while doing that they also create a certain style that seems to distinguish their work, especially Von Trier's, making it really the work of a certain director. Therefore it also proves the auteur theory is true in a way.

Back to 'Festen', not only the first but arguably the best from the Dogme-films. It tells the story of a family coming together for the 60th birthday of Helge (Henning Moritzen). We learn to know other members of the family. We also learn one of his daughters, part of twins, recently killed herself. Then, at dinner, the oldest son and other part of twins Christian (Ulrich Thomsen), announces he and his sister were sexually abused by their father. At first people think it is a bad joke but do not really respond, but when he announces the same thing again the guests do not think it is funny anymore. Especially the other son Michael (Thomas Bo Larsen), an aggressive man with apparently not a pleasant passed, gets really mad trying to keep Christian away from the party. How this develops is for you to see.

The story is interesting and almost unbelievable at the same time. I was pretty surprised at times. The material is pretty heavy and the style, according to Dogme-regulation, adds to that atmosphere. Since the camera is always moving, it is hand-held, and since no filters and artificial light are used the film gets a raw and gritty look. Those effects seem to tell a viewer things are not as they should. It works the same way for Von Trier's heavy material in 'Breaking the Waves' and 'Dancer in the Dark'. What also works for 'Festen' are the performances. I almost would not call them performances, it really feels like your watching a home video made by one of the guests, recording events of real people.

'Festen' is different from other films, in a good way that is.
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