Thursday, September 6, 2012


Like I've said in previous entries, even movie fanatics like me miss a few important or good films from time to time. In this edition of "best films I missed..." we take a look at a fantastic film starring my newfound mancrush: Mads Mikkelsen (a PINNLAND EMPIRE favorite) – An actor I’m convinced isn’t just the most underrated actor working today but must have some kind of a speed/cocaine problem due to the insane amount of films he does each year. In fact, the only other actor to match his output (besides the obvious Michael Madsen) would have to be Michael Fassbender (another underrated actor and mancrush of mine). Anyway, enough about all this mancrush talk...

Putting aside the trickery & button pushing of Lars Von Trier (Denmark’s most prominent director) you'll see that many of today’s Danish filmmakers have a talent for tugging at the emotional heart strings with films like: Open Hearts, Brothers (the original), Things We Lost In The Fire, Pusher 2 (a film that wasn’t really about drug running & gangsters), Fear X etc. Sure not all of these movies are "great" (or even good for that matter) but at least there's a genuine attempt at trying to make an emotionally moving story. After The Wedding is the kinda movie you can legitimately call an "emotional rollercoast" without feeling guilty or even slightly corny. Writing about Susanne Beir's 2006 surprise Oscar nominated film; After The Wedding is kinda difficult without spoiling it but it’s essentially about secrecy and how things we thought were in the past can come back in to our lives. For two decades "Jacob" (Mads Mikkelsen) has been running a struggling orphanage in India and hasn’t even thought about returning home to Denmark. But when a rich philanthropist with a hidden agenda ("Jorgen") wants to invest a ton of money in the failing orphanage, Jacob is forced to return back to Denmark to seal the deal. But shortly after returning to Denmark he discovers he has a daughter he didn’t even know about. What unravels after that is a series of secrets & lies and we come to find out that things are more connected than we thought. Trust me, there's a lot more to the story but it would be wrong for me to spoil this for those of you who haven’t seen it. And just so you know, After The Wedding is available on the Netflix instant queue, so... *HINT HINT* Standout scenes include the moment when Jacob realizes he has a daughter (followed by the scene where he confronts his ex-girlfriend who kept the secret from him), the scene when Jorgen's wife discovers the secret he's been keeping from her as well as the last 10-15 minutes. After The Wedding is a well acted, emotionally draining film with an amazing ensemble cast. The standout performances come from Rolf Lassgard (the millionaire philanthropist with a few secrets of his own) and Mads Mikkelsen in an underrated leading role. Lassgard's loud & abrasive performance is evened out by Mad's more toned down and internal performance. You can count the number of times Mads raises his voice with one hand, whereas it seems like Lassgard (with his deep base-heavy voice) is yelling and crying through what seems like the entire last half of the film. He also brought depth to a  typically empty type of a character (loud, fat, wealthy philanthropist). When Jorgen's character is introduced he comes off like a somewhat egocentric asshole, but by the end of the film you realize he's a stand up guy and you wanna shed a tear for him.

After The Wedding is a testament to how talented Mads Mikkelsen is and how well he can adapt to any genre (which makes my anticipation for Thomas Vinterberg's The Hunt, a role which got him best actor at Cannes this year, even greater). To the general movie-going audience he's known for films like Casino Royale, King Arthur & Clash Of The Titans while to people like me he's known for the films of Nicholas Winding Refn, Flame & Citron and Adam's Apple. If you notice, what’s making today's prominent/breakout actors & actresses so in demand is their ability to adapt to any kind of genre. Besides Mikkelsen and Fassbinder, actors like Michelle Williams, Jeffery Wright, Vera Farminga, Ryan Gosling, Josh Brolin, Tom Hardy & Joseph Gordon Levitt manage to bounce between indie/art house and commercial films pretty seamlessly.
And Mads Mikkelsen's status in Hollywood is only about to get bigger as he's not only been taped to play the villain in the next Thor movie, but he'll also be playing a young Hannibal Lecter in an upcoming U.S. television series (not sure how I feel about that one, but whatever)

I would really like to jump out of a helicopter one day (as a stunt). In Denmark you can’t make these big action movies, so I hope I get to do it somewhere else someday - Mads Mikkelsen

What I also love so much about After The Wedding is that Susanne Bier keeps the stuff about the orphanage to minimum and doesn't play in to the white guilt angle about the noble white guy who feels obligated to help the poor struggling brown people. But she still throws in a few scenes here & there to remind us of why Jacob came to Denmark in the first place (there's a subplot about Jacob and his father-like relationship with one of the Indian children back at the orphanage).
This movie also sheds light on the importance of having a father (or father figure) in ones life (especially in the life of a young woman).
After The Wedding is part of the growing number of good "art house" films from around the world that are crossing over in to U.S. theaters that TRULY represents world cinema (with the obvious exception of UK Cinema which gets grouped in with American cinema come award season). Films like; Dogtooth (still can’t believe this was nominated for an Oscar), The White Ribbon, A Separation & Monsieur Lahzar are all further examples of this. You have no idea how many times year after year I make it a point to see as many films from around the world as possible only to find myself scratching my head at the recognized and nominated films that I either haven’t heard about or aren’t that good that end up getting nominated for awards or shown in the theaters.
Including After The Wedding on my list of best films of the last decade MAY be a stretch but it at least makes the shortlist and is a must-see.

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