Magazine article Screen International

Festen' (1996) - Screen's 40 at 40

Magazine article Screen International

Festen' (1996) - Screen's 40 at 40

Article excerpt

Director: Thomas Vinterberg (Denmark)

Thomas Vinterberg's Festen was the first film made under the rules of the Dogme 95 Manifesto, launched in 1995 by mavericks Vinterberg and Lars von Trier (they were later joined by fellow Danes Kristian Levring and Soren Kragh-Jacobsen).

Dogme enforced rules of film-making that would concentrate on story and acting and limit the use of special effects or new technology. The goal was to 'purify' film-making and rescue it from 'bourgeois romanticism' - the rules included shooting only on location, having only natural sound and using hand-held camera without filters.

Festen(known as The Celebration in the US and some other markets) told of a family gathering to celebrate its wealthy patriarch's 60th birthday at a posh manor house. His eldest son decides to use the occasion to announce to the shocked guests that his father had sexually abused him and his sister - who has recently committed suicide - as children. Following that revelation, other family secrets and illicit relationships are uncovered.

Of all the Dogme films, Festen holds up best today and even those who dismissed the movement as a gimmick are still drawn to this powerful story. The way in which Vinterberg and DoP Anthony Dod Mantle shot the film lends it a compelling intimacy. It is also a remarkable showcase for the acting talents of then-mostly unknown Danish actors Ulrich Thomsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Paprika Steen and Trine Dyrholm.

Made on a reported budget of only $1.3m, Festen went on to gross a whopping $2. …

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