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"After The Wedding" poster
Couple at top: Christian Tafdrop & Stine Fischer Christensen. Bottom: Rolf Lassgård & Stine.

"After The Wedding" (Danish: "Efter Brylluppet")
A Review by Gary Chew

GARY CHEW/Sacramento

"You don't have to be poor to have good intentions. There are people with money and ideals," Helene shouts at Jacob.

Not often does a line in a foreign film, even from Denmark, profess as noble a concept about the wealthy. However, that's what gives "After the Wedding' such appeal. In it, one gets up close and personal with a Danish billionaire who, despite his human flaws, is and wants to be a good person, especially to his family.

Director Susanne Bier

Director Susanne Bier

Susanne Bier ("Open Hearts") was born in Copenhagen in 1960 and that's where a good deal of her Oscar-nominated Best Foreign Language Film for 2006 was shot. Helping her in that task was Anders Thomas Jensen, another Dane---only in his mid-thirties--- who won an Oscar in 1998 for his live-action comedy short titled, "Valgaften."

Director Bier and Jensen collaborated on "Brothers" in 2004" and now give us "After the Wedding." This one is a melodrama, but don't let that keep you away from the theater. It's an intelligent and nuanced melodrama with memorable acting, cinematography and editing. I did have a little difficulty with swish-pans and circular shooting, a la Claude Lelouch ("A Man and a Woman"), which requires the camera to circumnavigate the actor. Since I was neither a big fan of "NYPD Blue" nor raised on MTV and VH1, I find that sort of cinematography a distraction. This compelling narrative hardly needs extracurricular visual activity to make an impression.

On seeing this film, notice the extreme close-up shots of the actors' eyes and faces and the small visual pauses or breathing spaces Ms. Bier places in her film. All the principle players have striking and interesting features, and Bier uses them to the fullest extent. Using eyes to convey emotion gives needed subtlety to the script.

Mads Mikkelsen ("Casino Royale," "Open Hearts") has the lead as Jacob, a Danish expatriot in India doing the good work of saving and feeding poor and orphaned children. His project is in serious financial stress with a real chance that it won't last much longer. Many of the young kids he helps care for there may soon be on the street fending for themselves.

Rolf Lassgård plays Jørgen, the rich Danish businessman who offers Jacob's project the chance for a hefty contribution, but it requires that Jacob come back to Copenhagen to put the finishing touches on the deal. Jacob doesn't want to leave India and, especially, the eight year-old boy, Pramod, played by Neeral Mulchandani. Jacob has raised the boy from infancy and each is deeply attached to the other.

Sidse Babett Knudsen and Mads Mikkelsen

Sidse Babett Knudsen and Mads Mikkelsen

But money talks and Jacob travels. It's all the way back to Copenhagen. During what Jacob believes will be a week's stay in Denmark, he's invited to attend the wedding of Jørgen's daughter, Anna, played by Stine Fischer Christensen. At the wedding reception Jacob realizes that Jørgen has married Jacob's old flame, Helene. She's played by Sidse Babett Knudsen. (And you thought this was going to be a movie about doing the right thing in the heat of India, huh?)

Moreover, and here's some of the melodrama of the piece, it seems, about two decades earlier, Helene left Jacob before she knew that she was pregnant with their daughter. Yes, the daughter who just got married and Jacob just found out existed. Anna knows that Jørgen is not her real dad, but has never been told that her biological father is alive. You can tell things are going to soon come to a head with this group of characters, can't you?

Well, things do, but there's more to it than that; a lot more. And, as you've probably come to know, if you read my reviews with any kind of regularity, I'm not going to say what they are.

"After the Wedding" pulls at your soul with its decency and the call to responsibility on the part of husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, daughters, old lovers and little children who run hungry in the streets of a far-off land. Yes, with just a bit of sexuality and a smidgen of harsh language, it's a family movie; not exactly what Disney would release, but, I guess, that's what makes it a foreign film. "After the Wedding" actually reveals the humanity and real goodness of the privileged who take their place along side those who experience poverty from the front row.

Preview "After The Wedding"

"After The Wedding" official site.
Coming to the Circle Cinema June 1.
Gary Chew can be reached at garychew@comcast.net
Copyright © 2007, Gary Chew. All rights reserved.

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