After the Wedding (Denmark/Sweden; 120 min.)

directed by: Susanne Bier
starring: Mads Mikkelson, Sidse Babbet Knudson, Rolf Lassgård
Efter brylluppet

Bruce says: "Probably the less said about Susanne Bier’s AFTER THE WEDDING the more enjoyable the viewing experience will be. A simple plot outline was all I had as background information before seeing the film; I was extremely glad not to have read any reviews.

"Jacob (Mads Mikkelson) is a modern, melancholy Dane in his early forties. He has spent the past twenty years going from one project to another, helping the less fortunate in India. In recent years he has been head of an orphanage and has unofficially adopted a young boy. Jacob’s heart is in the right place but he is not very good at the business part of his endeavors. The orphanage, like most of Jacob’s projects, has financial woes and is in danger of closing if a substantial sum is not found. In the eleventh hour Jørgen (Rolf Lassgård), a wealthy Danish industrialist and financier, agrees to fund the orphanage providing Jacob flies to Copenhagen to discuss the details in person. Jacob arrives on Friday and has a brief but unsatisfactory meeting with his new benefactor. Jørgen seems preoccupied with the wedding of his daughter Anna (Stine Fischer Christensen) the following day and invites Jacob to the festivities.

"The plot thickens as Jacob arrives in the middle of the wedding ceremony. He is not well received by Jørgen’s wife Helene (Sidse Babbet Knudson) at the reception. During the wedding banquet things heat up when the bride offers a most untraditional toast. Jørgen begins to add unreasonable conditions to the bequest for the orphanage. The bride’s younger twin brothers are the only ones who really appreciate Jacob because he plays soccer with them. Jacob is wondering why he traveled back to Denmark and how he got involved in what appears to be a diabolical scheme.

"Like many recent Danish films such as THE CELEBRATION and RECONSTRUCTION, much of the story is about what lies under the surface of relationships. Families in these films function flawlessly until the scales suddenly tip, spilling all their dysfunctional secrets at once. Both Mads Mikkelson and Rolf Lassgård are brilliant in their roles. Sidse Babbet Knudson has a Stockard Channing air about her and handles her complicated character with flying colors. Throughout the film director Blier (BROTHERS, OPEN HEARTS) is completely in control of her craft. 4.5 cats"

Chris says: "When did the word "melodrama" acquire such a negative connotation? One of the worst things you can currently say about a movie is that it feels melodramatic. In fact, I've praised many a film for not containing a hint of melodrama. However, there have been great, intelligent transcendent melodramas from Sirk to Bergman and beyond; it's just a difficult genre to master.

Danish director Susanne Bier's latest, AFTER THE WEDDING is unabashedly a melodrama but don't let that deter you. Despite a somewhat predictable, occasionally clumsy screenplay, this is far from a made-for Lifetime TV production. All you need to know about the story is that it involves Jacob (Mads Mikkelsen), a manager of an orphanage in India, Jorgen (Rolf Lassgard), a wealthy Copenhagen entrepreneur whom Jacob is seeking a grant from, and a flurry of revelations that come about when the two men meet; prior knowledge of anything else will seriously diminish the film's impact.

It all works because Bier tempers the story's soap opera tendencies with a charged yet intimate style and pace. The camera breathlessly swirls around the action, offering many close-ups of faces (with a particular, peculiar emphasis on the eyes) to the point where it feels like you're watching a less cerebral and austere but just as thoughtful (and wrenching) Bergman film. Mikkelsen and Lassgard are both excellent, as are Sidse Babett Knudsen as Jorgen's wife Helene and Stine Fischer Christensen as their daughter, the youngish, adorably mousy Anna. AFTER THE WEDDING is a lesser, more conventional film than Bier's previous one, BROTHERS, but it's also a good, accomplished melodrama made by people who know what they're doing. 3.5 cats"