Film-Forward Review: [AFTER THE WEDDING]

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Mads Mikkelsen as Jacob
Photo: IFC Films

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Directed by: Susanne Bier.
Produced by: Sisse Graum Jørgensen.
Written by: Bier & Anders Thomas Jensen.
Director of Photography: Morten Søborg.
Edited by: Pernille Bech Christensen & Morten Højbjerg.
Music by: Johan Söderqvist. Released by: IFC Films.
Language: Danish with English Subtitles.
Country of Origin: Denmark. 119 min. Rated R.
With: Mads Mikkelsen, Rolf Lassgård, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Stine Fischer Christensen, Christian Tafdrup & Neeral Mulchandani.

Two men in their forties lead very different lives in the parallel opening scenes. Jacob Pederson (Mads Mikkelsen), living in a Mumbai slum, teaches English nursery rhymes to orphan boys and paternally embraces one in particular, the adorable Pramod (Neeral Mulchandani). Thousands of miles away, Jørgen Hansson (Rolf Lassgård), as the self-made master of all he surveys, boasts he “can see Sweden on a clear day” from his penthouse office. At home in his elegant estate outside Copenhagen, he reads nursery rhymes to his blond twin boys before bedtime. His power to exploit is constantly emphasized by the hunting trophies lining his walls and even reaches to India, where he sends word to Jacob that he must return to his native country for a required personal interview if the orphanage is to qualify for a large donation.

After meeting the taciturn expat, but before cutting a check, Jørgen invites Jacob to a wedding, that of his only daughter, Anna (Stine Fischer Christensen), occurring that weekend. Jacob arrives late to the elaborate outdoor ceremony, which might explain the first backward glance he receives from Jørgen’s wife, Helene (Sidse Babett Knudsen), but not the second. Helene’s clearly unsettled reaction does not go unnoticed by Jørgen.

It takes a half-hour for this setup to lead to the titular moment when the rebellious bride Anna (Stine Fischer Christensen) bucks her mother’s fears and learns the truth about the mysterious guest. The dialogue shrugs at the melodramatic coincidences that lead to buried truths and tattered lies coming unwrapped with the presents. Eventually, Jørgen structures a deal Jacob can’t refused, but rages that there are some things even he can’t control (involving yet another secret). In scenes deliberately designed to pull out tears, there may be a lot of snuffles heard from the audience. The complexity Lassgård brings to his avuncular entrepreneur is particularly on display in a birthday toast where he switches on a dime from devoted husband and father to intrepid CEO leading his company’s global expansion.

All the characters are so restrained hiding their emotions that only the tight close-ups, as the frantic camera sweeps full circle around them, reveal their feelings. When each finally explodes in a “How could you do this to me?” moment, their raw interactions are touchingly natural, despite the soap operatic plot. Jacob and Helene, nonplussed at being manipulated into an unexpected reunion, passionately resume fierce arguments that barely seem to have been interrupted by 20 years worlds apart. He presumes the moral high ground while she insists on practical realities. As a result, Jacob’s humanitarianism seems more like penance for his past. Though Mikkelsen, quickly getting recognized internationally as more than the Casino Royale villain, does repressed very well, he actually and refreshingly gets to crack a couple of very attractive smiles. Nora Lee Mandel
April 1, 2007



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