After The Wedding
I’m doing this wrong, you should be the one drinking if I want to get laid.

Golden Mug

Score (Johan Söderqvist)

Theatrical Release Date: 02/24/2006 (Denmark), 03/30/2007 (USA)
Director: Susanne Bier
Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Rolf Lassgård, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Stine Fischer Christensen

Once again, Susanne Bier has crafted another gorgeous and heartbreaking film with “After the Wedding”.

I am a huge fan of her work, most notably “Open Hearts” and “Brothers”, which I consider to be some of the finest in foreign cinema.

This latest effort was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 79th Oscars and is another film in the crowd of nominees I would have taken over “The Lives of Others“. (I would have also preferred “Black Book” even though it didn’t make the final cut for the awards show.)

In any case, “After the Wedding” is the story of a man (Mikkelsen) trying to raise money for an orphanage in India that has to return to his native Denmark to schmooze a wealthy potential financier (Lassgård). As fate and a complicated relationship-oriented script would have it, there are connections between the characters that you don’t see very often, if ever at all, in real life.

Bier has a habit of doing this in her films, creating situations that bring the most intimate relationships to the brink of disaster. Her use of close-ups on the actors’ eyes to often emphasize their emotions might seem a little jarring at first but these unusual touches fit right in with the film and say almost as much as the wonderfully written script.

In less talented hands, a film like this could turn out to be an utter disaster. However, Bier manages to deliver the story with such a level of sincerity that you can’t help but be sucked in. A tremendously moving score by longtime collaborator Johan Söderqvist aids in conveying the complex emotional elements and works beautifully within the context of the film, as well as on its own.

Much of that credit goes also to the cast. Mikkelsen is a long-time collaborator with Bier and this pairing has once again created a dynamic powerhouse of a film, with his performance at the center providing a touchstone for the audience to relate to. New to the fold are Lassgård, Knudsen and Christensen. Each does a wonderful job of creating characters that feel real. Christensen especially delivers a raw, vulnerable performance that I dare anyone not to shed a few tears over.

If you’ve seen some of Bier’s previous work, you know what kind of deeply moving film you’re going to get. Most people however, probably haven’t seen her work and if you want a powerful, heart-wrenching story, go out and get any of Bier’s films mentioned in this review. Like “Open Hearts” and “Brothers” before it, “After the Wedding” provides the kind of introspective experience few films are capable of and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

There was a small problem with keeping the tone of the film at an even keel towards the end so I can’t give the perfect rating out but a strong 4 out of 5, I’m already making room on my shelf for this DVD once it’s available. And don’t be lulled into thinking that a 4 isn’t a great rating … honestly, I probably should give it a 5 but when I watch a gut-wrenching film – with my heart ripped out and stomped on the floor – I want it to stay that way.

Bier injects hope into her films … and I’m the kind of pessimist that doesn’t always want a silver lining. And when that’s the reason I knock a film back down from a 5, rest assured all of you normal people should be able to find the excellence contained in such an amazing film.