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After the Wedding (10/10)

by Tony Medley

Directed by Susanne Bier and written by Anders Thomas Jensen from a story by Bier and Jensen, this is a film that is so expertly directed that I was held in thrall for the entire 1:55 running time.

Jacob (Mads Mikkelsen) works at an under-financed orphanage in Bombay. As the movie starts, one is captivated by Jacob’s eyes. He is carrying a hurt somewhere and we are going to find out what it is and what caused it.

He reluctantly returns to his native Denmark to apply for funds from Jǿrgen (Rolf Lassgård), a billionaire entrepreneur. While meeting with Jǿrgen, he is invited to the wedding of Jǿrgen’s daughter, Anna (Stine Fischer Christensen). He attends, only to discover that Jǿrgen’s wife, Helene (Sidse Babett Knudsen), is his old flame. Slowly everyone’s secrets begin to emerge as events cascade the characters into confrontation with life’s truths.

This is a cast from paradise. As good as Mikkelsen, Lassgård, and Christensen are, Knudsen is the one that captivated me. There are so many emotions running through this film that Bier conveys them through many closeups of the characters’ eyes. In other hands this would be inordinately tiresome.  But Bier tells her story so expertly that it turns out that the best way to express them is through the characters’ eyes. In fact, all of the actors in this film tell their stories through their eyes. And everyone has something that dominates their life, even Anna, the sweet daughter.

Something happens at the wedding that throws all their lives into turmoil, not just Jacob, hence the title, “After the Wedding.” This is an emotional film, but one that rings true to life.

Mikkelsen was nominated for the European Film Awards as best Actor, but I can’t for the life of me understand how there could have been an actress who gave a better performance than Knudsen.

It was nominated as Best Foreign Language film for the 2006 Oscar. I thought that Lives of Others deserved the Oscar it won, but that was before I saw this. Lives was wonderful; this is better.

In Danish.