Combustible Celluloid
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With: Ulrich Thomsen, Henning Moritzen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Paprika Steen
Written by: Thomas Vinterberg, Mogens Rukov
Directed by: Thomas Vinterberg
MPAA Rating: R for strong sexual content and language, including references to sexual abuse
Language: Danish, with English subtitles
Running Time: 105
Date: 10/30/1998

The Celebration (1998)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Grouse Party

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

With The Celebration (1998), Danish director Thomas Vinterberg creates one of the most twisted and disturbing family gatherings of all time.

The setting is swanky, but the look is dreary. Gathering in the Danish countryside for the 60th birthday of Helge (Henning Moritzen), we have Christian (Ulrich Thomsen) -- whose twin sister committed suicide -- plus his surviving sister Helene (Paprika Steen) and younger brother Michael (Thomas Bo Larsen). At dinner Christian proposes a toast and subsequently accuses their father of sexual atrocities committed on the twins when they were younger. As guests drink, argue, fight, and make drastic accusations, Vinterberg cleverly switches the tone from outrageous to horrifying. The result is brutal, but emotionally cathartic.

The film was also the first from the "Dogme 95" movement, in which filmmakers vowed to follow certain rules (hand-held cameras, natural sound and music, and existing props, etc.). The intention was to bring moviemaking back into the hands of artists, telling truthful stories about people.

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