Sunday, January 09, 2005

The Celebration (1998) - * ONE OF THE BEST *

You thought your family was messed up?

Genre: Drama (Denmark, Sweden)

Starring: Ulrich Thomsen (The Weight Of Water; Max), Henning Moritzen

Directed By: Thomas Vinterberg (Dear Wendy)

Overview: A family reunion for Dad's 60th birthday anniversary becomes an out-in-the-open melodrama when the eldest son drops a bomb during his opening dinner speech.

Acting: This film style allows for the acting to be undisturbed by any lighting or special effects. The way this story unfolds is so perfectly written that the acting follows naturally. The hysterics are perfectly placed, the rage (both seething and outspoken) is well timed. The aged's memory loss is properly played out. Everyone does a great job. Without these actors and their brilliant direction, this film could have really crashed and burned, but with great risk come the potential for great result.
Rating: 10

Cinematography: The cinematography here really needs some background explanation: this film is the first of the Dogma Project. A bunch of European directors got together and decided to make some movies true to reality: no added lighting, unnecessary make up, soundtrack. If you think about it, it's really hard to make a movie that is strictly good camera work, acting and story, all using natural light. The viewer who watches this pure spectacle of high-art, without this knowledge might dismiss it for a low-budget production. After a while though, even that can't hold, due to the professionalism of the cameraman and the artistic, ingenious angels. This movie's cinematography was a true challenge, and this film, Dogma #1, does a magnificent job in purity.
Rating: 9

Script: The challenge with the strict rules around being a Dogma project is the story. It has to be good and interesting. Other films in this project include Italian for Beginners, Julien Donkey-Boy, and the famed The Idiots. The story and the script are really all you have to judge, some hit, some miss. This script though is utterly ultra-dramatic while still dealing with very real issues, and to this family, very recent and sensitive ones. Without ruining a single scene, I just have to say that any writer who wants to learn about dialogue must see this. Some lines are so hard hitting that you blink and gasp for several seconds, no bullshit.
Rating: 10

Plot: The plot is so daring, I wonder how many people have tried to do such a thing during a family reunion? The plot twists and turns just enough from character to character while still never straying off course of the heavy impact of that speech. Natural and dramatic, realistic and unpredictable. Amazing because it's so believable.
Rating: 10

Mood: The Dogma Project's rules really add to the docu-drama reality effect of this film's mood. Without the minimalist approach, this may not have been as good. A lovely mansion surrounded by fineries all reflecting and brightened up by fancy lenses and track lighting would have made an interesting tale of high-society's cracks, but with this film, all that paled in comparison to the richness of the players themselves. A testament to filmmaking truth, without the glitz.
Rating: 9
"So do I ruin your evening sooner or later, dad?"

Overall Rating: 96% (Nigh Perfection)

Aftertaste: You're taking a real risk watching this movie. I mean if you're used to watching Troy, Speed and Starship Troopers, stay the hell away from this movie, it's got nothing for you except a complete revisiting and possible shattering of your preconceived notions of what Film is meant to be, which means of course you'll have to start thinking for yourself, and then you've really opened a can of worms. Still, this forum isn't for you in the first place, so I guess I'm talking to no one who would apply... This is my Number 2 favorite movie in the WORLD (begrudgingly bumped down by Requiem for a Dream in 2001). It's not pleasant, but it's brilliant and what Film truly is: a lesson teacher, an insight into Humankind, something that leaves an indelible impression. This masterpiece is all those things. Do yourself a favour and expand your horizons.