Thomas Vinterberg's Festen (The Celebration)

C. Claire Thomson

  • Published: July 2015
  • Subject Listing: Scandinavian Studies; Film and Media Studies
  • Bibliographic information: 232 pp., 12 illus., 5.5 x 7.5 in.
  • Territorial rights: Not Avail Uk, Eire, Cont Eur
  • Series: Nordic Film Classics
  • Contents

Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg's searing film Festen ("The Celebration") was the first film from the Dogme 95 stable. Adhering to Dogme's cinematic purity - no artificial lighting, no superficial action, no credit for the director, and only handheld cameras for equipment - Festen was a commercial and critical success, winning the Jury Prize at Cannes in 1998 and garnering worldwide attention.

The film is set at the sixtieth birthday party of Helge, the wealthy patriarch of a large Danish family. The birthday festivities take a turn when Helge's son Christian raises a toast and denounces Helge for having raped and abused him as a child, along with his twin sister, who recently committed suicide. The film explores the escalating consequences of Christian's announcement, from the stunned dinner party's collective denial, to violence, to an unexpected catharsis.
C. Claire Thomson's study examines the history and context of the film, setting it within the Danish cultural and sociopolitical milieu. It examines the place of the film as a work of national cinema and examines its pioneering role as an experiment in digital cinema.

Part I. Festen and Film History
1. Dogma 95 and Danish Cinema
2. The Auteur and Cinema History
3. Dogma 95 and the Death of Film

Part II. Festen's bodies
4. The Handheld Camera
5. The Hotel
6. Sense Memory and the Haptic

Part III. Festen's ghosts
7. The Story of Allan
8. Festen from Screen to Stage
9. Media and Time

Appendix A. Dogma 95 Manifesto and Vow of Chastity
Appendix B. Festen: Data
Appendix C. Thomas Vinterberg: An Annotated Filmography