Thomas Vinterberg directs Ulrich Thomsen, Thomas Bo Larsen and Trine Dyrholm in this Danish black comedy where a son makes shocking speech at a family dinner and everyone just tries to carry on celebrating.
So… I was devouring Sight & Sounds in my college library in the late 1990s. Trying to mature my tastes from John Woo and John Landis. I’d wager this is the first foreign (and experimental) film that actually clicked with me on the big screen. I was fully engrossed by the disturbing satire, the ugly performances from the spoilt family members and the warmer background turns from the staff. The digital supernatural elements have aged well. There’s some fine in-camera shocks. Some strong bastard laughs too. Sneaky tender moments amid all this nihilism and class scabrousness. I care less and less about the Dogme fimmaking methods the further away we get from their brief moment in the sun. The “vow of chastity” never meant all that much to me. Instead of democratising cinema, pretty much every release that followed in Festen’s wake was found wanting. There are times when the handheld, medium definition filmmaking doesn’t help the escalating drama even here. For that reason I loved Vinterberg’s breakthrough just a little less on this rewatch. But back in the day, this was a landmark in the evolution of my movie tastes. I’ll always be a mainstream guy, but this opened up arthouse for me, made it accessible.
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