Festen

Denmark

Synopsis

lt's summertime in Denmark, and at the Great House a celebration is about to begin: Helge Klingenfeldt, patriarch and lord of the manor, is turning sixty.

Invitations have been issued, the seating plan drawn up, and now the guests' cars are pulling into the drive up to the entrance: friends, relatives, and of course, the patriarch's next of kin: Elsa, his wonderful wife, and their three grown-up children, Christian, Michael, and Helene. The head of the family is to be feted in a way nobody will ever forget.

Despite all the careful preparations, the celebration turns out to be very much a `surprise' party. Helge's eldest son, Christian, has come home for the party. He is summoned to his father's study for a man to man chat: will Christian please say a few words at the dinner about his twin sister, Linda, who died last year? The birthday boy is afraid he will start blubbing, as he puts it. Christian says that in fact he has already written a few words for the occasion.

The arrivals are shown to their rooms and Helene takes Linda's old room, which has remained unused since her death. It is as if Linda is present. Uninvited because he had failed to attend his sister's funeral, the younger brother, Michael, makes a noisy arrival with his wife and children.

Below stairs things are bustling: fine wines have been brought up from the wine cellars, the fish soup is ready to go, the venison is in the oven. The chef, Kim, is master down here; as Christian's boyhood friend he has his own views on the company and the centre of attention today.

In the banqueting hall upstairs, where the guests are in high spirits, the waiters and chambermaids are on parade. Among the latter, Pia has an eye for Christian, whereas last year Michelle had more time for Michael than Michael's wife, Mette, would approve of.

Dusk falls. The master of ceremonies introduces himself and announces that dinner is served. Nobody smells a rat when Christian gets to his feet to keep the promise he made to his father. Christian is the only person present who knows that soon the world will know the naked truth about his family and the reason why he lost his twin sister.

Christian is the only person who knows that it will be a night nobody will ever forget, however much they might want to.

Directors Statement

"My supreme goal," declares director Thomas Vinterberg, co-founder of the Dogma '95 group and co-writer of 'The Vow of Chastity' with fellow film-makers Lars von Trier, Kristian Levring and Soren Kragh-Jacobsen in 1995, "is to force the truth out of my characters and settings. I swear to do so by all the means available and at the cost of any good taste and any aesthetic considerations".

Director's Biography

Thomas Vinterberg was born in 1969. In 1993 he graduated from the National Film School of Denmark with LAST ROUND, which won the jury and producers' awards at the International Student Film festival in Munich, and First Prize at Tel Aviv; in 1994 the film received an Oscar nomination. That year Vinterberg made his first TV drama for DR TVand his short fiction film THE BOY WHO WALKED BACKWARDS, produced by Birgitte Hald at Nimbus. This film has won awards and accolades all over the world, including Nordic Paorama in Iceland, the International Short Film Festival in Clermont-Ferrand, and the Toronto FF. Thomas Vinterberg then made his first feature, THE GREATEST HEROES. The script for this film, like those for LAST ROUND and THE BOY WHO WALKED BACKWARDS, was written in collaboration with Bo Hr. Hansen.
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Cast & Crew

Directed by: Thomas Vinterberg

Written by: Thomas Vinterberg, Mogens Rukov

Produced by: Birgitte Hald

Cinematography: Anthony Dod Mantle

Editing: Valdis Oskarsdottir

Sound Design: Morten Holm

Main Cast: Ulrich Thomsen (Christian), Henning Moritzen (Helge), Thomas Bo Larsen (Michael), Paprika Stehen (Helene)

Nominations and Awards

  • European Discovery of the Year - Fassbinder Award  1998
  • European Film 1998
  • European Actor 1998
  • EFA Feature Film Selection 1998