‘AFTER THE WEDDING’ (‘Efter Brylluppet’) ☆☆☆ ½
Starring Mads Mikkelsen, Rolf Lassgard, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Stine Fischer Christensen, Neeral Mulchandani, Meenal Patel, Christian Tafdrup, and Ida Dwinger; Directed by Susanne Bier; Written by Susanne Bier and Anders Thomas Jensen; 120 minutes, Rated R.
In a world of avarice and lust for power, I remain fascinated by those called to service to the poor and downtrodden and about what motivates them.
This 2006 movie opens in the colorful and teaming-with-humanity chaos of Mumbai, India. The hand-held camera pans sites and scenes that unless you have been to India, you will not believe. From garbage-strewn streets to naked children, you know that the “R” rating was not for this assault on your first-world sensibilities.
You are then delivered to the emotionless face of Jacob (Mads Mikkelsen), the un-Hamlet Dane who seems devoted to the poor. He will dominate the next 119 minutes of your time.
He is surrounded by small orphaned boys, teaching them, hugging them, speaking with them, projecting a quiet, resigned asceticism that seems utterly impenetrable and almost sanctified.
Why is he there? What redemption does he seek? What wrongs has he done that need penance and atonement? He surely has suffered slings and arrows and now this outrageous fortune; however, he does not seem to suffer or be uncertain. If anything he seems too sure, too placid given the surrounding multitude and endless problems.
His conversation with Mrs. Shaw (Meenal Patel), the Yoda-like mistress of this penurious hostel for boys, makes it clear: He must return to Denmark to seal a deal, for a rich industrialist has proposed to grant the asylum for boys a gift that will deliver them from privation.
But the stubborn request is that he must appear in person. The last thing Jacob needs or wants is to return to from whence he came. Pramod (Neeral Mulchandani), the veritable runt of the litter whom he has cared for from birth, approaches his eighth birthday, and the boy seems the only one to penetrate the steely isolation that Jacob portrays.
He pledges to return, and dutifully gets measured for a cheap suit to return to Copenhagen and collect the endowment to save the mission and his chosen path.
Then comes Jorgen (Rolf Lassgard), a master of the universe and rich captain of some undisclosed industry that has made him wealthy beyond imagination. He seemingly has no reason for this sudden generous impulse, and it hatches on the eve of his oldest daughter's wedding.
He imposes his overly large gregarious frame on everyone, and it is clear he is a force to be reckoned with, and owes no motives or explanations to anyone. Why does he now feel the need to become a benefactor to this remote orphanage? His beautiful wife, Helene (Sidse Babett Knudsen), has given him a set of floppy blonde boys, Morton and Martin, and they want for nothing in their baronial estate in the country.
He seems unburdened and playful, a man in complete control, and cannot be bothered with the foolish details of the impending nuptials, which are left to Annette (Ida Dwinger), a friend of Anna's. He confesses to his wife that this will be the first marriage for Anna—the first of many.
Christian (Christian Tafdrup) is dispatched to deliver Jacob to Jorgen's office. Jacob meets Jorgen, who tells him he is not yet sure that the grant will be awarded to the orphanage. He inquires about his ties to Denmark, of which there are none, and decides for him that he will attend his daughter's wedding.
The wedding is stark and simple; the reception at the estate bedecked with Danish flags has a flirtatious Annette trying to crack the hard and handsome Jacob, who recognizes Helene, and a revelation that Anna makes in her unusual Bride's Toast stirs more than “Skoals” for Helene and Jacob, and questions about Jorgen's entire proposition spill forth.
This movie brushes against melodrama and maudlin themes, but its crisp writing, and slow unfolding of each of the characters, and their evolution from enigmas to human beings with character and dimension, make for an incredible experience.
The critical details that I left out were spilled when I looked at the synopsis on AOL. The performances of Mikkelsen, who played the villain who sweats blood (Le Chiffre) in the recent Casino Royale, and the Swedish actor Rolf Lassgard and their craft at defining their characters are utterly outstanding.
True, there are some too-easy solutions to complex problems, but Jacob is confronted with soul-wrenching choices. Jorgen chooses to attempt to tidy situations up with the élan of Giuseppe Tornatore's 1990 lesser-known-than-Cinema Paradiso masterpiece, Stanno tutti Bene (Everybody's Fine).
Families sometimes protect themselves and guard secrets from one another rather than trust they can deal with great events, tragic and joyous, with their eyes open rather than shut too tightly. His character and his performance steers his overly large frame from a playful dad reading bedtime stories, to a loving husband who falls fully clothed into his wife's tub, to a sly businessman, an unruly and boisterous drunk, and finally a touching collapsing helpless human being.
Protecting Loved Ones
Protecting loved ones, a technique perhaps we witness in our patients, sometimes really is a form of denial, and an attempt to bargain for time on the unrocked boat rather than confronting the gruesome details of reality.
This movie portrays Jorgen suffering the illusion that he is in complete control, manipulating the strings like a marionette master, when it becomes clear that there are indeed things that money cannot buy.
Bring your handkerchief. This is an emotional roller coaster that plumbs the depths of your soul, and asks the questions that we all will ask some day: What would we do if we were in Jacob or Jorgen's shoes? What choices would we make? See it!