Festen

One of my recent DVD acquisitions was Festen, the first of the Dogma 95 films. In spite of not having seen the film since it came out more than a decade ago (though I did re-watch it once then after first seeing it at the EIFF) it’s been one of the films I think back on most frequently so as soon as I saw that it was going to be released again I preordered it.

This being a Dogma 95 film there is little need to wait for a HD version – the Dogma rules are all about getting back to basics including all-natural lighting and handheld camerawork done with low end cameras. This means there’s really not any detail to miss, instead there’s a visceral, documentary style feel. Really the film is all one big sequence of formal exercises – the Dogma rules are obviously a big formalism, the plot is very Jacobean and the whole thing revolves around a rather grand birthday party with bow ties and a toastmaster. The thing that really hooks me is the contrast between all this formality and the content, which is fairly brutal and emphasised by the visual style. I find this sort of setup endlessly fascinating when it’s done well.

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