A common thing seems to inhabit in most Danish films. Some kind of inner violence that even doesn’t appear you know it’s there, ready to explode and burst into scene when you expect it the least. This brief paragraph could entirely sum up what I was feeling while watching Festen.
Festen was the first film made under the guidelines of the Dogma 95 manifesto and as a declaration of intentions it’s quite clear and explicit. Less artifacts on screen, more improvisation, handycams… basically the rejection of any element that can deprive the film from its original essence.
It’s the 60th Birthday of the patriarch of a quite big Danish family, the perfect excuse to join all the members of the family into a big party. As it usually happens, the party will reveal many things, things that will hurt all the family relations and that will put everyone at ease.
Christian plays the role of the favorite son. The one that departed to Paris and succeeded. Handsome, intelligent and with charm. Only the recent death of his twin sister seems to make this man suffer.
Michael is the youngest brother. Life doesn’t seem to have been so good for him. He is a violent, impulsive and impetuous character that seems to support his whole life under the
umbrella of that family.
Helene is the sister. She seems to have chosen a different path from his brothers. Trying to get away from the whole madness.
I already knew Thomas Vinterberg from a masterpiece called Submarino, exploring the twisted relation between two brothers that have just lost their mother, but Festen reveals a different way of doing things. It’s a more primitive movie but also it makes you completely part of it, pulling you into it, like becoming a member of that celebration and feeling as weird and uncomfortable as the other members of the party are. If you like Von Trier, you’ll love this.