Director: Thomas Vinterberg

The jury is still out on the Danish ‘Dogme’ school of filmmaking and its no frills, back to basics philosophy. To date, the best argument for the defence has been provided by Thomas Vinterberg’s award-wining Festen, a relentless, unforgiving portrait of a family which gathers to celebrate the 60th birthday of its patriarch. As various guests assemble at the family’s great house in the country, the father summons his eldest son and asks him to say a few words about his twin sister, who died recently. It soon becomes apparent that there are many secrets in the family which the son wishes to confront and exorcise, and what ensues is as shocking as it is unsettling. Vinterberg’s nervous style (the entire film was shot with a tiny, hand-held video camera) perfectly suits his material and provides a virtuoso display of paranoia and claustrophobia. Totally unafraid to push the material to its limits, Vinterberg has made a daring and provocative piece of work.
Denmark, 1998. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby stereo SR. 106 mins.

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