AFTER THE WEDDING

 (Efter brylluppet)

Directed by Susanne Bier. 2006.


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Powerful performances by Mads Mikkelsen, Rolf Lassgard, and Stine Fischer Christensen mark Susanne Bier’s After the Wedding, one of five nominated films for Best Foreign Film at the 2006 Oscars. Filmed in India and Copenhagen, Denmark, it is a film about conflicting demands for compassion and how to best meet the needs of others. Jacob (Mads Mikkelsen) runs an orphanage in Mumbai for Indian children who otherwise might end up on the streets as child prostitutes. Jacob has very expressive eyes, especially when he looks at eight-year old Pramod (Neeral Muchandani), a boy that he has raised since infancy. Secrets and lies play a big role in the film and Bier’s camera provides us with extensive close ups of people’s eyes that hint of hidden stories in their lives. 

When the orphanage runs into financial trouble, Jacob learns about a Danish industrialist’s offer to donate a huge sum of money to the project. His boss, Mrs. Shaw (Meenal Patel), tells him, however, that the financier, Jorgen (Rolf Lassgard) insists that he go to Copenhagen to work out the details of the grant in person, a city he has not visited in twenty years. Reluctantly he leaves, telling Pramod that he will be back within eight days for the boy’s birthday but the look in his eyes suggests that this may not work out. The focus of the film then shifts to Jorgen, a heavy set businessman whose aggressive personality seems to portend another stock character. However, as we get to know Jorgen and his family, a tender, more human side emerges.  

As he prepares for the wedding of his daughter Anna (Stine Fischer Christensen) to a company employee, Christian (Christian Tafdrup), hints of his controlling nature are shown but we also see him in a happy relationship with his wife Helene (Sidse Babett Knudsen) and his young children Martin (Frederick Gullits Ernst) and Morten (Kristian Gullits Ernst) to whom he reads bedtime stories. After their first meeting, Jorgen invites the Orphanage director to Anna’s wedding the following day and we sense that the film has many surprises in store for us. When Jacob and Helene’s eyes meet at the wedding ceremony and Anna gives a toast revealing that Jorgen is not her real father, it becomes clear that Jorgen’s insistence that Jacob come to Denmark has more than a business motivation.  

Ultimately, through many plot twists and turns, Jacob must face an agonizing choice about how best to meet the needs of others. After the Wedding reveals fascinating layers of character detail for both the idealist and the pragmatist and raises interesting questions about personal responsibility, but the film ultimately sinks under the weight of too many contrivances and movie “coincidences”. While it is a sensitive film that shows the need for compassion for all people regardless of their economic status, I found it to be too carefully plotted to be genuinely moving in spite of its dominant performances and the lovely music of Sigur Ros.  

GRADE: B 

Howard Schumann
 
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