After the Wedding (Efter bylluppet) is the marvelously subtle story about the value of family, the decisions we make and the decisions people make for us. It beautifully spins a story of the lengths people will go for who they love and how four people find their worth.
Jacob, played by Mads Mikkelsen, runs a nearly bankrupt orphanage in India. In order to get a substantial financial gift for the orphanage, he must travel to Copenhagen, Denmark to meet in person with the benefactor. Jørgen, the benefactor, invites Jacob to his daughter’s wedding while they finish up the paperwork for the gift. At the wedding, Jacob learns a life changing secret about his family. The movie’s drama starts “After the Wedding.”
Writer/Director Susanne Bier and co-writer Anders Thomas Jensen wrote a movie that can best be explained as emotionally complex. The characters are three dimensional, flawed, and perfect. Bier and Jensen created characters who are more human than I’ve seen in a film in a long time. They make tension without guns or explosions, and yet the emotion that runs through feels just as dooming. Each twist and plot turn leaves the plot better explained and yet opens you up to an intimacy in the characters you didn’t have before.
The acting in “After the Wedding” is incredible. “After the Wedding” ranges the emotional spectrum and none of the actors miss their mark, never. The movie spins on palpable tension between all the characters. There are scenes where you can tell exactly what the characters are feeling, worrying, thinking about and they don’t say a word. Jacob is probably the least complex character in the movie, but Mads Mikkelsen’s performance is multifaceted and captivating. Jacob is stoic but not staunchly so. Mikkelsen lets the emotion ooze out of him smoothly. The few moments where he loses control altogether are extraordinarily powerful. Jacob has to make a life changing decision and Mikkelsen’s masterly portrayal of Jacob’s toil is understated and profound. Helene (Sidse Babett Knudsen) Jørgen’s wife, is the source of most of the tension in the movie. Helene is a labyrinth of complexities. You waver between loving her and being angry with her. Through “After the Wedding” Knudsen gives Helene such a raw humanity that you can’t hate her. Stine Fischer Christensen plays Anna, Helene’s daughter. Anna seems to be as fragile as a bird in the beginning of the movie. As it progresses, Christensen gives Anna an unexpected strength. She is the weakest performance in the movie but she still gets a solid A.
The most complicated character, by miles, is Jørgen (Rolf Lassgård). A drunk, control freak, loving father and husband, Jørgen is impossible to completely figure out. Outside the press screening room a spontaneous conversation broke out between reviewers about him, his motives and behavior. Rolf Lassgård is shocking, awe-inspiring and mighty. At the end, your own personal beliefs will dictate if you feel like he is a villainous monster or good intentioned but made bad decisions. His performance made me cry for ten minutes.
The music in “After the Wedding” adds perfectly to the movie. Most of the music is violin with the typical Hindi music we think of when we think of India. It is Jacob’s thinking music, and reminds us of both sides of his difficult decision.
This movie isn’t perfect though but its imperfections are minimal. The beginning is pretty slow. The movie runs about 20 minutes too long. It would have really benefited from a better film editor. There are too many establishing shots (shots that show the outside of a building or the like to tell you where the action is happening.) There is a lot of walking away. Shots linger too long with no benefit to the story. I haven’t seen a movie since “Climates” that has so many eyeball shots. For some people the subtitles might be annoying. These problems are barely worth mentioning.
“After the Wedding” is surprisingly powerful. Rarely can an ending that wraps everything up leave you with so much to talk about. “After the Wedding” left me feeling like an outsider watching the most intimate parts of their lives. I loved it, it was wonderful. See this movie.