No 229 – Dogme 1: Festen (The Celebration)
Director – Thomas Vinterberg
I am excited. As the little certificate comes up I am finally going to do something I have never done. I am FINALLY going to watch a Dogme film. The first Dogme film.
So we begin with a family getting back together for their dad’s birthday. Back to the hotel that they grew up in. Even before I knew what was going down I could tell that the family was on edge. Everyone is angry and snapping at one another. Some of this is explained by the recent suicide of one of their siblings…. But more is explained later. The father seems particularly tense and Michael, the youngest son, is shown to be an absolute bastard. Over the course of the film he will showcase such delightful character traits as massive anger, domestic abuse, general violence, racism and generally being a cunt. Luckily, he does sort of redeem himself. Or at least he finds peace to a degree.
There are reasons that everyone is tense. This is a family with some pretty dark secrets. And…. As the birthday party begins (and can I just add that the Danish Happy Birthday song is way way better than out poxy version) Christian, the family’s oldest son, decides to bring a few of these secrets out in a toast.
Christian’s revelations are the crux of the film and were a brilliant surprise. So if you haven’t seen it and you want it to be a surprise just know this. It is immense and shit goes down.
Now you can stop reading the blog.
Because I’m going to discuss.
Right, so its rape. Christian and his (now dead) twin sister were ritualistically raped by their father as kids. I had to put this spoiler in because I couldn’t discuss my greatest issue without it…
The film begins by questioning whether these allegations are true. Gradually throughout the film you learn more information and the full story becomes clear. But, regardless of whether the allegations are true…. They have been said. They are out in the open. And yet, THE PARTY STILL CONTINUES.
If I went to a party where someone was continually and in detail accusing the party host of being a paedophilic rapist, I wouldn’t continue the party. I’d be freaked out. I’d probably want some kind of police action.
But not so in this film. Christian finishes his speech and there is an awkward silence which then just leads to another speech and the party continues. Christian’s attempts get more and more drastic and the repercussions from other family members get more and more violent, ending up with Michael and 2 uncles dragging Christian into the woods, kicking him in, and tying him to a tree.
Yet throughout all of this the party continues. Food and wine are still imbibed and there are still games and dancing. That’s pretty weird. Hell, even when the father confesses (with the cruellest and most incredible line ever: “My talentless offspring, it was all you were good for”) it doesn’t stop the festivities.
It is once the party does end, and the children get together and have their cathartic moments. Whether it is Michael attacking his father and telling him to never go near his kids, or whether it is Christian finding love with the staff (scandal), it all goes back to equilibrium.
And whilst the hotel will never be visited by any of the party guests and whilst he will be alone and despised for ever, the father still comes off surprisingly lightly for someone who committed such a vile and despicable deed.
I suppose it is that that left me the most perturbed, the fact that the group goes back to normal so easily. Oh, and that the music in the end credits is also used in ‘A Dog Like You’ by Misty’s Big Adventure.