The ultimate dinner party drama-turned- nightmare. Festen (The Celebration) is set entirely in the home of wealthy patriarch Helge and his wife Else as they throw a large party in their idyllic, rural estate.
It’s Helge’s 60th birthday, and joining him to celebrate is his eldest son Christian (Ulrich Thomsen), a successful Parisian restauranteur, sister Helene (Paprika Steen), an anthropologist, and their younger brother Michael (Thomas Bo Larsen) – who hasn’t been invited. At the birthday dinner, Christian stands to deliver a toast – one accusing his father of abuse – thus beginning an evening of unravelling family secrets.
Deftly balanced between tragedy and comedy, shock and farce, this Danish drama won the Jury Prize at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival. Otherwise referred to as “Dogme #1”, Festen launched Vinterberg’s and Lars Von Trier’s manifesto, adhering to their principles of handheld cameras, direct sound, location filming, and the elimination of technical tricks, and inspiring a whole generation of Scandinavian – and British – cinema.
Some years after making the film, Vinterberg talked about its inspiration: a young man told the story on radio host Keld Koplev’s show. Vinterberg listened to the radio programme and asked scriptwriter Mogens Rukov to write a screenplay based on the events, as if it were the young man’s own story. It was later revealed that the story was completely made up, by a patient receiving mental care.
Festen will be presented from the original 35mm print, and with an introduction from Hollywood Reporter film critic Neil Young.
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