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The Celebration Criterion Blu-ray Review

“The Celebration” is a dark family drama.

Director Thomas Vinterberg kicked off the Dogme 95 movement in cinema with 1998’s “The Celebration” (AKA “Festen”). The story begins with Christian en route to his father Helge’s 60th birthday party alongside his temperamental brother Michael, his sister Helene, and other family and friends. There’s an initial somber mood as a family member (Michael’s sister) recently passed away. In fact, it turns out there’s nothing celebratory at all as Christian reveals he and his late sister were sexually abused by their father. Matters quickly unravel from there on out as the dark family secrets cause the gathering to implode.

Dysfunctional family stories are hardly anything new to the world of cinema, but Thomas Vinterberg managed to create an original story that feels truthful, uncomfortable and in your face due to the filmmaking style via a digital handheld camera. The style is dated and perhaps a bit dizzying, but it gives the film a unique home movie vibe. It’s as if we (the audience) are watching this family meltdown unfold before our very eyes. 

The script by Vinterberg and Mogens Rukov is what really packs a punch here as the movie straddles the line between genres and tones while digging into themes of trauma, racism, family, secrets, and infidelity. There’s a lot going on here from a character perspective as each of the main players has their own arc (even though the movie is largely from Christian’s POV).

Acting wise, everyone turns in a convincing performance here, but Thomas Bo Larsen makes the biggest impression as the volatile brother of Christian (Michael). Michael is a lying, unstable racist who is dealing with his own demons, but he also cares about his siblings and finds his world being rocked by the secrets that are revealed. He’s a generally awful human being, but his character arguably has the most depth.

Video/Audio:

Presentation: 1.33:1 1080p. How does it look? Even with the 2K restoration, the digital video visuals haven’t aged well, but it matters little as that was part of the experimental wave of cinema

Audio Track: Danish Uncompressed Mono. How does it sound? The quality is pretty low, but again, it doesn’t really matter.

Extras:
* “The Celebration” trailer
* A booklet featuring photos, credits, a written piece about Dogme 95 and an essay by author/critic Michael Koresky.
* A 2005 commentary by director Thomas Vinterberg
* A new 19 minute interview with Thomas Vinterberg about his filmmaking career.
* 12 deleted scenes including an alternate ending.
* 2 Vinterberg short films titled “Last Round” and “The Boy Who Walked Backwards.”
* “The Purified”- A 2002 documentary about the Dogme filmmakers. Interviews with filmmakers like Vinterberg and Lars Von Trier are included.
* “Disclosure Of The Celebration”- An archival 2005 interview with Vinterberg who talks about what inspired “The Celebration.”
* A 1998 TV documentary featuring cast and crew interviews from the film’s premiere in Copenhagen.
* A 2005 retrospective documentary with cast and crew interviews.
* “ADM:DOP”- A 2003 documentary about cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle (who shot “The Celebration”).

January 29, 2022 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , ,

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