Festen (The Celebration)
Rialto Theater—Relatives and friends gather for the birthday celebration of the 60-year-old patriarch of a well-to-do Danish family. In the formal setting of the well-appointed family-run hotel, the civilized façade of the tuxedo-clad guests slowly crumbles, revealing ugly, latent passions and long-buried family secrets.
The astonishing emotional force of this film, by director Thomas Vinterberg, owes as much to its cinematic technique as to its explosive plot and subject matter. Released in 1998, it's the first of the so-called "Dogme" films, and as such it adheres to a set of self-imposed rules (contained in a "Vow of Chastity") that Vinterberg and fellow Danish director Lars von Trier first articulated in 1995. Most importantly, the rules forbid audio and visual effects: all sounds and lighting must occur within the scene being filmed. The Dogme "movement," announced by von Trier at a conference in Paris celebrating the 100th anniversary of motion pictures, was a reaction to the excessive unreality of the plots, filmic techniques and budgets of modern commercial filmmaking.
While the movement itself may have withered on the vine (the Dogme95 Web site, which listed more than 200 "officially certified" releases as recently as September 2007, is now defunct), and while its final influence on the course of film history is for future generations to judge, with Dogme #1—Festen, Vinterberg threw down an un-ignorable gauntlet. The screening, at 7 p.m., is part of the 43rd season of the Cinema Inc. series; tickets for next season ($20 for 12 films) can be reserved at www.cinema-inc.org/tickets.htm. Non-subscribers can purchase a prorated ticket for The Celebration at the door for $8. —Marc Maximov