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After the Wedding

The weather at this wedding is certainly very heavy, no way around that. There may be moments of exquisite beauty but rare are the moments of humour.

But that’s the directorial choice of Susanne Bier, whose ninth film, After the Wedding, was Oscar nominated for best foreign picture. Her previous films include the Dogme films Brothers and Open Hearts.

Bier has just directed her first Hollywood film, Things We Lost in the Fire, staring Halle Berry and Benicio del Toro. No laughing matter. It will be fascinating to see if her choice of documentary shooting carries over to a Hollywood production.

Social worker and former alcoholic, Jacob, (Mads Mikkelsen – alias Le Chifre) has buried himself in an orphanage in India for the past several years, teaching school and organizing programs to help feed and give health care to poor or homeless children. One heartfelt little boy of seven, Prodam, particularly loves Jacob who returns the love in a sincere if rather cold, northern fashion.

When Jacob is called back to Denmark to raise money for the orphanage, Prodam extracts a promise from Jacob to return in time for his birthday.

Jacob reluctantly travels to Denmark, an absurdly wealthy country compared with the desperate poverty Jacob has been living with. Millionaire Jorgen meets Jacob, listens to his pitch then informs him he has several projects in consideration.

But Jorgen also invites Jacob to his daughter’s wedding the next day. Again with reluctance, Jacob goes along. It just so happens that Jorgen’s wife, Helene, is Jacob’s old girlfriend who left him because he had an affair with her best friend. They haven’t seen each other in twenty years.

At the wedding dinner, the bride thanks her parents, revealing that Jorgen is not her biological father. Hence Jacob meets his daughter for the first time. Soap opera fashion, the plot twists become predictable after the first shock.

Jacob’s dilemma becomes more poignant, however, as he is forced to choose between remaining in Denmark with his own daughter, or returning to India to be with Prodam, the little boy he has raised since birth.

Bier’s handheld, jerky camera choice suits the colorful chaos of the streets of India and sharpens the edge of the obvious hunger, illness and need of India’s children. But sometimes the jerky camera style seems forced in the green, expansive stillness of Jorgen’s Danish estate.

Most refreshing is the even mixture of male and female dilemmas, unlike many American films which seem capable of addressing only one gender at a time, often stereotyping the sexes.

After the Wedding
Release Date: March 30, 2007
Run Time: 2hr. 0min.
Rating: R: some language and a scene of sexuality.
Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Rolf Lassgard, Sidse Babett Knudsen,
Stine Fischer Christensen, Christian Tafdrup.
Director: Susanne Bier
Stars: 3 1/2
Festival Cinemas Vancouver Ridge Theatre
3131 Arbutus Street (at 16th Ave)
(604) 738-6311

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