The Celebration (Festen) (1998)

Directed by Thomas Vinterberg

Starring Ulrich Thomsen, Henning Moritzen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Paprika Steen, Birthe Neumann, Trine Dyrholm

A Danish film based on a lie told on a radio talk show, Festen, is the story of a terrible family secret revealed at a father’s 60th birthday. Regarded as the first Dogma 95 film, Festen shuns the excesses of modern studio filmmaking and focuses on creating realistic portrayals of characters, settings, and actions without the crutches of props, post-production, and artificial lighting. The result is a startling and immersive film.

For those who have not seen the movie, I won’t ruin the surprise and encourage you not to read anything on the film that would give away the secret before seeing the film. Even with knowing though, the complex character portrayals and interactions, the cinematic style, tension, and humor are engaging enough to warrant a viewing.

For those curious about Dogma 95 filmmaking, here are the rules laid down by directors Lars Von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg:

Filming must be done on location. Props and sets must not be brought in (if a particular prop is necessary for the story, a location must be chosen where this prop is to be found).
The sound must never be produced apart from the images or vice versa. (Music must not be used unless it occurs within the scene being filmed, i.e., diegetic).
The camera must be a hand-held camera. Any movement or immobility attainable in the hand is permitted. (The film must not take place where the camera is standing; filming must take place where the action takes place.)
The film must be in colour. Special lighting is not acceptable. (If there is too little light for exposure the scene must be cut or a single lamp be attached to the camera).
Optical work and filters are forbidden.
The film must not contain superficial action. (Murders, weapons, etc. must not occur.)
Temporal and geographical alienation are forbidden. (That is to say that the film takes place here and now.)
Genre movies are not acceptable.
The final picture must be transferred to the Academy 35mm film, with an aspect ratio of 4:3, that is, not widescreen. (Originally, the requirement was that the film had to be filmed on Academy 35mm film, but the rule was relaxed to allow low-budget productions.)
The director must not be credited.

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