After the Wedding
Posted by martinteller on March 18, 2014
Jacob Pederson (Mads Mikkelsen) runs a struggling orphanage in India. It will close in a year if he can’t find funding. He returns to Denmark to seek the help of billionaire and would-be philanthropist Jørgen Hannson (Rolf Lassgård). Hannson is interested but is considering other charitable foundations and needs a few days to think it over. He invites Jacob to his house for the wedding of his daughter Anna (Stine Fischer Christensen) to his employee Christian (Christian Tafdrup). Jacob just wants to return to India and witness the 8th birthday of his favorite charge, but since he’s now stuck in Denmark anyway, he reluctantly accepts the invitation. The situation takes on a new wrinkle when he meets Hannson’s wife Helene (Sidse Babett Knudsen)… Jacob’s old flame from 20 years earlier. And there are more wrinkles yet to come, starting with Anna’s speech at the reception….
This is my second film by Danish director Susanne Bier. I liked this a bit more than Open Hearts, it isn’t nearly as cynical. It requires some minor suspension of disbelief (I actually found Anna’s speech the most difficult to swallow — what an awkward and implausible way to shoehorn in a revelation) but the humanity of these characters is genuine. It seems at first to be setting up a simplistic black/white clash of classes, with Jacob as the noble crusader and Jørgen as the crass industrialist. But each character develops nuances that flesh them out and reveal the flaws — and the assets — that make up a person. Of the three leading characters, none are either crucified or lionized. And the film has some nice, eloquent things to say how we reconfigure our lives and families in the face of crisis, how we take comfort and give support to each other.
It’s too bad, though, that the drama is about as subtle as a load of bricks. Bier keeps dropping drama bombs into the narrative. I don’t want to give anything away, but when a certain Rather Large Bomb drops, I couldn’t help thinking, “Okay, really?” It’s Big Drama, and there are times when I like Big Drama, but I think a slightly lighter touch might have helped make the situation a little more relevant and relatable to the average viewer. Still, it’s sometimes effective, and Lassgård gets a particularly histrionic scene that could have easily felt overblown… and yet it works. It even feels like a Bergmanesque grappling with inner demons. I’ve realized that I’m not particularly fond of Mikkelsen, but he does a pretty decent job, too.
The film does have a striking sense of immediacy, thanks largely to a keen sense of framing and editing (the handheld camerawork is a remnant from Dogme, but is done here with easily digestible restraint). Bier often cuts to extreme close-ups of eyes, as if trying to peer directly into the soul. She often finds something there. I just wish her insights were encased in a stronger story. Rating: Very Good (80)