Thomas Vinterberg

Thomas Vinterberg

Vinterberg became established with his thesis film "Last Round" (1993), which won the jury and producer's awards at the International Student Film Festival in Munich and first prize in Tel Aviv. He followed with the TV drama "Dregen der Gik Baglaens/The Boy Who Walked Backwards" (1995) and "The Greatest Heroes" before hitting the mother lode of critical acclaim with "The Celebration." Wishing to evoke the dramatic breadth of Strindberg and the cinematic panache of Bergman, Vinterberg unleashed his video cameras (fudging Dogma 95 principles a bit by later blowing the video up to the prescribed 35mm) on an upper-class, dysfunctional Danish family, with friends, spouses and lovers in tow, as they mark the patriarch's 60th birthday. When the oldest son Christian, displaying the melancholy and mordant wit of a latter day Hamlet, calmly accuses his father of incest before the assembled, it sets the stage for a long night (and even the next morning) of revelation, and the frenetic hand-held camera movements perfectly captured the film's nervous evocation of moral chaos. The running gag is how the party never ends, that no matter what appalling act has just been disclosed, the guests never drop their sense of propriety. Their attitude is, "Let's have our coffee.""The Celebration" is an audacious film, in keeping with its creator's brashness, but time will tell if it, von Trier's "The Idiots" (1998) and Soren Kragh-Jacobsen's "Mifune" (1999) are the only products of Dogma 95's gimmicky genre. Though the style worked for "The Celebration," it must be said that screenwriters Vinterberg and Mogens Rukov supplied outstanding raw material for the experiment, a story so compelling that audiences forgave the film's grainy texture and lack of conventional polish. If the director adheres to the manifesto's rules for subsequent films, one wonders if moviegoers will have continued patience for such a "home movies" flavor. Certainly the onus will be on Vinterberg to provide scintillating tales that take the viewers' minds off what they are missing.