The Celebration review by Matt Fuerst


Ahhh families. I've long subscribed to the belief that everyones family is just a little off kilter. We've all got those family members that are skeletons in our closets. We've got the loud people, the quiet people, the wonderful people and the not-so wonderful people. We may be embarrassed by certain members of our family, but in the overall we love them and support them and receive the same in return. The Klingenfeldt family, even on the very surface, has a lot of ends that seem unraveled. Very quickly we have to wonder, if this is how the family interacts with each other on the surface, what sort of darkness must lie underneath?

The family is returning to Father Helge's house in the country to celebrate his 60th birthday. His children and more distant relatives, a total of about 30 people, are staying in various rooms throughout the spansive house, everyone preparing for the big dinner party. We meet the main characters, Helge's children Christian (Ulrich Thomsen), Michael (Thomas Bo Larsen) and Helene (Paprika Steen). We learn there was a fourth child, Linda, Christian's twin, who recently took her own life. Apparently this sort of tragedy apparently doesn't slow down Helge, who appears very ready for his birthday celebration. Michael is a wreck of a person, brutally mean to his wife and children and obviously despised by the family. Helene appears on the surface to be the most normal of the children, happy, together and decent at conversation. But she's almost as see through as cellophane and we know she's a house of cards waiting for a strong wind. Christian is the main focus of the camera. Christian appears to be a successful guy, running successful restaurants in Paris. He's a constant peacemaker amongst his family, trying to calm their violent storms. Such constant effort is trying on Christian, and soon after he arrives in the house he is asleep from exhaustion.

Early in the celebration dinner, the eldest son, Christian is urged to make a celebration toast. Christian stands and asks his father which of two speeches he should make, the one written in the yellow paper, or the one written on the green paper. Helge chooses the green. We don't know if Christian is relieved or terrified that Helge chose the green, since the green speech he gives contains a series of shocking family revelations. Christian quietly sits down and the family is stunned into silence. Somehow the evening is able to continue on and the family ties, already well frayed, begin to quickly unravel.

This type of story relies on the characters and their interactions. There's a story to be told and actions that drive it along, but it's really how the actors deliver their craft that really makes such a film. Thankfully everyone involved really delivers. The Celebration is somewhat famous for the philosophy of it's filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg. Vinterberg is a member of a group of filmmakers who signed a pact called dogme95. The pact is simple: produce films using only handheld cameras, no post visual or audio effects, using only natural lighting. The Celebration was the first film to receive the dogme seal of approval. For a lot of films, using the dogme methodology would make result in a lesser film, but here, it really brings you right into the action. The film has almost a "home video" feel to it, in that you become a member of the family while the party is going on.

If you feel in the mood for a serious, adult film that will make you think, I would highly recommend The Celebration. It's not something you want to watch with the kids during pizza night, but is remarkably successful at what it sets out to do.

10 out of 10 Jackasses
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