That term first came to my mind when, as a child, I’d try to say “stream of consciousness” and end up with “brainflow.” It seems to fit here.

Welcome to the ramblings of my mind. (For now, these ones revolve mostly around films.)

After the Wedding (Efter brylluppet)

Thursday, June 24th, 2010 6:26 pm—Film

After the Wedding (Denmark/Sweden 2006, Drama), Writer: Anders Thomas Jensen; Director: Susanne Bier

After the Wedding is an incredibly moving, impeccably acted film. It was a 2007 Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, although it lost to the deserving German movie The Lives of Others.

I almost rented After the Wedding when it was first released, after noticing its star, Mads Mikkelsen, in Casino Royale (he was Le Chiffre, or the guy who cries blood). I’m not sure why I didn’t follow through a couple years ago, but last night when the film came up in conversation, I couldn’t put it off. So I went out again into the rain to rent it, popped it in the DVD player and promptly stayed up much too late finishing it. I loved it.

The film opens in Mumbai, where Danish aid worker Jacob (Mikkelsen) manages a dilapidated orphanage. The place is gravely run down, so when the director receives an offer of a substantial donation from a Danish corporation, she’s inclined to do whatever the CEO commands. In this case, that includes sending Jacob back to his native Copenhagen to meet with the CEO, Jorgen Hannson (Rolf Lassgård). At first, Jacob refuses. It seems that although he has dedicated his life to the orphanage, his choices haven’t only been about improving the lives of others; he’s also been trying to escape his own.

When the orphanage director makes it clear that he doesn’t have a say in the matter, Jacob reluctantly flies home. Upon meeting with Jorgen, Jacob realizes the transaction won’t be as simple as shaking hands and posing for a photo op. Jorgen invites Jacob to stay for his daughter’s wedding, and only after the ceremony do we begin to explore what Jacob—along with Jorgen and his family—have been running from.

Watching After the Wedding is a bit like watching an Actors Studio showcase. There are so many beautifully performed scenes where the actors bare incredibly raw emotion, but so skillfully and with such restraint that even moments at the height of anguish and heartbreak are never over-the-top.

Adding to this sense of realism is director Susanne Bier’s decision to shoot on video using a handheld camera. The style reminds me of another excellent hyperrealist film, Rachel Getting Married. Both movies are well served by the approach, which creates the sense of immediacy you’d find in a home video. It’s an especially appropriate choice for After the Wedding because it provides a fitting documentary feel during the scenes at the Mumbai orphanage. My only stylistic complaint is Bier’s overuse of extreme close-ups. Some of them work, particularly those that emphasize hands or objects. But she’s a little too in-your-face with the tight shots of eyes and lips.

I can’t say much about the plot without revealing points that should be discovered firsthand. But what I love most about the film—aside from the exquisite performances, without which the movie couldn’t possibly work—is the bittersweet journey the characters go through as they try to find their place in the world, that place where you truly feel at home. As we see in After the Wedding’s final scene, and particularly its final shot, you can’t forge a home where you don’t belong, and you can’t ever really feel at home by trying to outrun the past.

*            *            *

Everybody’s out on the run tonight but there’s no place left to hide / Together we can live with the sadness / I’ll love you with all the madness in my soul / Someday baby I don’t know when we’re gonna get to that place where we really want to go and we’ll walk in the sun / But till then tramps like us baby we were born to run.

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