- 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 (71 customer reviews)
- ASIN: B0000DZRNH
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 117,215 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)
Festen [DVD] 
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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.
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, Amazon.com --This text refers to an alternate DVD edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
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  [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.
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.
In 1995 two Danish directors (now considered quite well known in their fields) by the name of Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg started a new avant-garde movement in the filmmaking industry which was named the "Dogme 95" movement (Dogme being the Danish for "Dogma"). The Dogme 95 Manifesto had a set of rules that stated the production had to be filmed under very special conditions to be certified as a Dogme 95 release; the main theme of the conditions was that the movie must be shot entirely with a hand-held camera in 35mm film, there must be no extra lighting, no filters, no sets, no props, all shot entirely on location and the sound must come from the scene itself (no ADR, no soundtrack, music must be diegetic).
This is the original Dogme 95 film, the template on which others would follow. This being the barest of bones of a movie is what is so brilliant; the lack of emphasis on special angles, filters, lighting, sets, means the focus on the story itself is all so much more powerful. The acting in this film is absolutely outstanding and believable. Some people may find it hard to get past the reveals of the edge of the lens on wide shots, or the graininess of low-lit scenes, but I urge you to overlook and try to see past these things to focus on what is a very gripping story and utterly fantastic performances from all actors involved.
The story here is absolutely staggering; the story runs steadily rather than having huge reveals and quickening pace to exciting levels.Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Don't bother, life is too short. Very confusingly filmed and never really connects with audience.Published 17 days ago by miss
Everything that American film could never aspire to. Raw, gritty, and a film that will leave a lasting impression. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Dokya
Thomas Vinterberg’s shocking Festen (1998) is story first, and style a close second.
During a Danish summer, Daddy (Henning Moritzen) is having his sixtieth birthday,... Read more
A wicked insight into people: their beauty and shortcomings all emphasised shamelessly, with camera work that makes you feel almost as if you are there - whilst being reminded you... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Amazon Customer
From the start it captivated me with its realism and raw emotionPublished 8 months ago by Borislava Antova
Unusual but interesting film with very fine actors in who all play their parts well and are very believable, Ulrich Thomsen is brilliant, this is before his 'Banshee' days, he is a... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Mrs. J. Ball