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Festen [DVD] [1999]

Ulrich Thomsen , Henning Moritzen , Thomas Vinterberg    Suitable for 15 years and over   DVD
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Actors: Ulrich Thomsen, Henning Moritzen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Paprika Steen, Birthe Neumann
  • Directors: Thomas Vinterberg
  • Writers: Thomas Vinterberg, Mogens Rukov
  • Producers: Birgitte Hald, Morten Kaufmann
  • Format: PAL
  • Language: Danish, English, German
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: 15
  • Studio: Bluelight
  • DVD Release Date: 10 Nov 2003
  • Run Time: 106 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0000DZRNH
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 126,631 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)



Rising to the challenge of Dogma 95's self-imposed restrictions on aesthetic freedom, Thomas Vinterberg's Festen is a remarkable example of the way limits can give rise to creative opportunity. (Dogma 95 is a vow of chastity sworn originally by a group of Danish film-makers, which also includes Lars von Trier, director of Breaking the Waves. The group's manifesto in which its members vow to eschew special lighting, optical effects, props and the visible imprint of a director's personality in order to attain higher truths yielded by characters.) Festen, shot with a small video camera and transferred to 35mm film, concerns a black-tie birthday gathering for a family patriarch, Helge (Henning Moritzen), which erodes into a battle after long-suppressed secrets are revealed and the chance to settle old scores presents itself. Among the grievances are an accusation of incest and the responsibility for the death of a child--gruesome stuff, but Vinterberg doesn't characterise the partying crowd's reaction in quite the way one might have expected. In fact, the whole of Festen is about unexpected perspectives and vantage points emerging from out of nowhere, largely due to Vinterberg's free hand at editing the film in such a way as to yank truth from every corner. This is a strong work that belies scepticism over Dogma 95's bare-bones trendiness, and is perhaps a harbinger of great work to come from Vinterberg. --Tom Keogh,

Product Description

Danish drama from the 'Dogme' school of filmmaking, directed by Thomas Vinterberg. The wealthy Helge Klingenfeldt (Henning Moritzen) and his wife Elsa (Birthe Neumann) throw a family party to celebrate his sixtieth birthday. Eldest son Christian (Ulrich Thomsen) and daughter Helene (Paprika Steen) arrive, as does reckless younger son Michael (Thomas Bo Larsen) - in disgrace through his failure to attend sister Linda's funeral months earlier. Maids Pia (Trine Dyrholm) and Michelle (Therese Glahn) both hope to rekindle their old affairs with the two brothers, but their efforts prove to be in vain. At dinner, Christian announces that both he and the late Linda were sexually abused by Helge when they were children, but is not believed. However, while staying in Linda's old room Helene discovers a suicide note from her sister which forces her to reconsider.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
Vinterberg's Festen is a true masterpiece - it intertwines everything from awful family secrets coming to light during the father's 60th birthday celebration, to the relationships between siblings, racism, and and an extreme version of 'looking the other way'.

It is tragic, insightful, as well as deeply funny in a slightly disturbed way. Of all the Dogme 95 movies this one still works best in my opinion and it should also not be so hard to stomach as The Idiots [1999] [DVD] for most viewers. The gritty realism dictated by the manifesto adds very well to the topic being addressed in the movie.

It is definitely - as other reviewers have pointed out - a movie to buy, as repeated watching it does not detract from its quality, there is always the same sense of anticipation, and subsequently contentment for having seen and enjoyed it yet again.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What great cinema is all about 23 April 2006
By Belgo
The very first film made in accordance with the Dogme 95 manifesto, and quite possibly the best. You don't so much watch Festen as get completely drawn into it. The natural lighting and hand-held camera give it an almost documentary feel, your being pulled - whether you like it or not - into the action from the very first moment.

All claustrophobically set in one day and in one hotel, over the course of the film you find yourself emotionally dragged through the gutter before being pulled out the other side. You find yourself thrown into the back of cars and into the middle of fights - so much so that by the end you rather feel like you've experienced the whole thing first hand rather than having been a passive spectator. The acting is incredible, and the utter intensity of the whole thing at times overwhelming. As another reviewer said, if you thought that your family had issues then prepare to be stunned.

Hence while the Dogme manifesto has now become rather old-hat, Festen is testament to what it set out to do in the first place. It stripped film-making down to its bare-essentials, shunning the high-tech equipment, lighting and special effects that have become predominant and instead took it back to its rawest and purest form. The result is a breathtaking and landmark film that will shock you, touch you and probably even disgust you, but that will ultimately also leave you fully convinced of the power of great cinema.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Flawless 23 Feb 2005
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
This is possibly the best film I've ever seen. Watching it again (for the third time) last night, I was amazed by the subtlety and force of every single scene, image and gesture. The structure of the plot is on a par with a classic Greek tragedy, updated for the contemporary psyche. The transformation of every character through the gradual revelations of the story is thoroughly Shakespearean. As for the relentless power of truth, advancing slowly and unpredictably, but ultimately crushing all social artifice and pretence - it's art at its best. Awesome.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars which speach would you choose? 3 April 2006
Festen concerns the birthday of a wealthy Danish patriach. The whole family gathers in celebration(festen)at a large isolated hotel, just one year after the suicide of one of the daughters. The eldest son Christian has been invited to make a speach in honour of his father, but he has written two speeches, his father must choose...
This film is a raw and searingly honest exploration of family dynamics, both the dark and the light. Made as part of the dogma 95 contract (no artificial lighting, music etc) the stripped down method completely suits the content of the film.
As the contents of the speech are revealed so are the families skeletons in the cupboard, and with them all the denial and avoidance families use to try and keep harmony and avoid the painful truth.
This film manages to open the wounds of the characters without cliche, and shows the festering underbelly of the protagonists without judgement, an amazing feat given the history involved.
Because the filming technique is so close and visceral, the clostrophobia of the situation is felt by the viewer and it is easy to feel as one of the guests,who would rather not be viewing the intimate unravelling of extended family, but in the same breath is struck by morbid curiosity as to how things will unfold.
And when this is done, it is managed with real compassion, redemption and hope.
Festen is not a comfortable film, but it does not abandon the viewer in this, rather is uses the pain to reach resolution and beauty. Just watch it.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars And I thought my family had issues.... 7 Oct 2004
I saw this in film class last year and absolutely fell in love with it and the dogme 95 pact, which Vinterberg and Von Trier (Dancer in the Dark) created together, which was basically an agreement that the two would only make realistic films. 'Festen', or 'The Celebration' is a perfect example of this pact with its naturalistic lighting, the lack of non-diagetic music and the hand held camerawork. The story keeps you hooked throughout as you not so much watch, but are invited to a man's sixeth birthday party. The film switches from restrictive narrative then omniscient as you learn more about the characters and their secrets, and there are a lot of secrets to be told! In a nutshell, the film deals with love, loss, family secrets, and strangely enough, water. I'll finish here, you need to watch it to understand how amazing it is and you need to watch it blindly to appreciate the narrative completely.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent drama without the names or gimmicks
Not sure what I can add to the reputation of this film, except to say that it unfolds like the best character-driven drama while showing that tragedy and farce are only two sides... Read more
Published 9 months ago by I. R. Cragg
4.0 out of 5 stars Some celebration! (But a stunning film)
Festen came to the top of our 'you might like this' list because we watch a lot of Scandinavian crime-drama, and its stripped-back, realistic ethos certainly fits well with that... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Rowena Hoseason
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely remarkable comedy noir.
I adore this film about a father`s sixtieth birthday celebration. I had already seen The Hunt which is by the same director, Thomas Vinterburg. Read more
Published 12 months ago by nellypitt
4.0 out of 5 stars Very controversial Family Saga
Had taken some time for us to watch it as it is quite heavy going but worth the effort - definitely not a happy family drama.
Published 12 months ago by Bee
4.0 out of 5 stars Festen DVD
Festen is a Dogme 95 Movie.
The rules for the filming a Dogme 95 movie must be the use of natural light and the use of a hand held camera which helps to create a... Read more
Published 15 months ago by daveh
5.0 out of 5 stars DVD
Arrived on time, although this hand control camera can make you feel somewhat dizzy after a while. Otherwise an enjoyable film.
Published 15 months ago by wendy
5.0 out of 5 stars "It Is Quite A Job Being Toastmaster Tonight"
Thomas Vinterberg's 1998 film Festen (ironically translated as The Celebration) - the first made under the auspices of the Danish Dogme '95 film movement - is a devastatingly... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Keith M
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but controversial...
I wasn't familiar with the Danish Filmmakers and Actors until I bought an Ole Christian Madsen 2008 Movie called "Flame and Citron", the code name of two members of the Holger... Read more
Published 20 months ago by Paula Torres
1.0 out of 5 stars OK if you can speak Danish
I bought this DVD from Amazon. The English subtitles facility is faulty so as I do not speak Danish the DVD is as useful as a chocolate tea-pot. Read more
Published 21 months ago by C. Davies
4.0 out of 5 stars Well worth watching !
This film was rather very different from any other we have watched, the camera work/lighting ect, but as strange as it was it just had you sitting on the edge of your seat waiting... Read more
Published 21 months ago by M. Neale
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