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April 30, 2007

After the Wedding

after the wedding.jpg

Efter Brylluppet
Susanne Bier - 2006
IFC 35mm Film

At one of the many dramatic points in After the Wedding, I understood why her past two films are getting English language remakes. There is a sense of raw, primal emotion expressed by Susanne Bier's actors that has been forgotten by most Hollywood filmmakers. While formally not a Dogme film, After the Wedding carries the same sense of immediacy.

I made a point of seeing Bier's new film theatrically based on how impressed I was by Brothers. Bier's favorite theme is exploring how a relationship, usually a marriage, shifts as the result of an unexpected event, possibly catastrophic. Mads Mikkelson plays a teacher at an orphanage in India, whose invitation to the wedding of the daughter of a Danish benefactor has unimagined consequences.

Initially the film seems casual in setting up the events which coincide with the pre-wedding activities of the characters. And it is "after the wedding" that the characters relationships become defined and re-defined, based on what is revealed about them to the audience and to each other. Without laying everything out at once, Bier and co-writer Anders Thomas Jensen manage to create sympathetic characters often in spite of what they do, as much as for what they do. Much of the film's energy is in the performance by Rolf Lassgard who at times suggests what Brando's Stanley Kowalski would have been like if he were a wealthy Dane. Much of After the Wedding pivots on Lassgard, swinging suddenly from boor to mensch.

Bier also makes use of extreme close-up of eyes and lips of her actors. Additionally there are shots of the eyes of animals, the heads mounted as trophies, as well as images of dried and dying flowers. After the Wedding opens and closes with montages of street life in India. In an indirect way, Bier and Anders have created a variation on the life of Buddha. One could read Mikkelson's journey as that of the boddhisatva discovering the Four Noble Truths. Bier is only marginally interested in contrasting the differences of life between the poor Indians and the wealthy Danes. After the Wedding is more of a reminder that no matter how isolated or sheltered one may be, there is no escaping birth, maturation, disease and death.

Posted by peter at April 30, 2007 04:45 PM