Mad about Mads!

Recently, Mads Mikkelsen has come to the attention of American audiences.  His first widespread exposure was when he starred as the villain in Casino Royale a few years ago.  Now, he’s gaining a huge cult following with the American TV series Hannibal.  However, there’s far more to the actor than these roles and he’s been in several brilliant Danish films—films you really need to see.

In After the Wedding, Mads plays Jacob–a man who has spent much of his adult life working with orphans in India. His program relies on money from some benefactor back in his native Denmark. Inexplicably, this benefactor insists that Jacob must come to Denmark personally to talk over future funding of the program. This really makes no sense, but Jacob has no choice but to go.

Once Jacob meets Jørgen Hannson, he is surprised by two odd things. First, Jørgen isn’t that interested in discussing the project–even though Jacob came all the way there just to discuss it. Second, inexplicably, Jørgen invites him to a wedding. It seems that Jørgen’s daughter, Anna, is getting married. Again, this is odd because Jacob doesn’t know any of the people who will be there…other than having just met Jørgen.

When Jacob arrives at the wedding, he realizes something is afoot. It turns out Jørgen’s pretty wife is Jacob’s old girlfriend–a woman he hasn’t seen in about 20 years! What is going on here? Surely this is not just some coincidence. What is Jørgen trying to do?!

I could easily say more about the film but this would ruin it. Suffice to say that when Jacob learns what’s really afoot, it’s a major kick in the head!!  And, there’s much more to this than you suspect as you watch the plot unfold.

Like so many of the films coming out of Denmark recently, this one seems inspired by the so-called “Dogma 95 movement”. It’s an agreement by several young filmmakers to make films in a very realistic manner. While director Susanne Bier is not officially a member of the group (at least according to the research I have done), the film fits into their goals–such as the extensive use of a hand-held camera (I hate this myself…not that this matters), natural locations instead of sets as well as contemporary stories.  Some of the Dogma films are just terrific—like this one and The Celebration.  Others seem a bit too constricted by the movement’s demands—particularly with the hand-held camerawork throughout.

So what did I think? Well, as you can see above I didn’t like the ‘unsteady cam’ look of the film. But, that withstanding, it’s a terrific film and I could easily look past the camerawork. It’s because the writing is superb and the acting is very, very nice—with Mikkelsen is at his best.  While the story seems very unbelievable, the plot really sucks you into it. All in all, I can easily see why it was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. It lost to The Lives of Others–which would seem to indicate that it is an even more amazing film–which is hard to believe! I guess I’ll have to see that film soon.

As for you Mikkelsen groupies, keep watching, as I plan on reviewing several other great Mikkelsen gems, as this outstanding actor has an amazing track record.

After the WeddingA+

Review by Lead Entertainment Writer and Film Critic, Martin Hafer