A drama about shattering revelations and difficult choices, "After the Wedding" could easily have become unbearably sentimental and cliched. Instead, thanks to a tight script, sharp direction and excellent actors, new film by Danish helmer Susanne Bier manages to be both emotional and engaging. Already a critical and commercial hit in Denmark, where it opened in early March, pic has definite potential to travel, initially to upscale fests.
Jacob (Mads Mikkelsen), who runs an orphanage in India, is told a Danish benefactor will give the institution a large sum of money if he travels to Denmark to meet the benefactor in person. Reluctantly, Jacob goes, promising to be back in India for the birthday of one the kids, Pramod (Neeral Mulchandani).
In Copenhagen, Jacob meets Jorgen (Swedish thesp Rolf Lassgard), a rich, somewhat arrogant man with a drinking problem. Jorgen invites Jacob to come to his daughter's wedding the next day.
Jorgen is married to Helene (Sidse Babett Knudsen), and his soon-to-be-married daughter is Anna (Stine Fischer Christensen). At the wedding, Jacob and Helene appear to recognize each other.
Scripter Anders Thomas Jensen knows how to avoid the traps of melodrama -- he and Bier previously collaborated on the excellent "Open Hearts" and "Brothers" -- and how to take the cliches of the genre and use them to further develop the characters.
Bier and d.p. Morten Soborg create an uncomfortable sense of intimacy through the use of extreme close-ups. Feeling of unease is also heightened by many quick shots of trees and flowers in silhouette against the sky, plus Swedish composer Johan Soderqvist's creepy music.
Mikkelsen, who played the lead in "Open Hearts," makes Jacob a man torn apart by his loneliness and memories of the past, and convincingly portrays the anger beneath his outward clam. Lassgard is also tops, making Jorgen initially unsympathetic but gradually layered. Knudsen is fine and, as Anna, newcomer Christensen holds her own against the three vets.
Camera (color), Morten Soborg; editors, Pernille Bech, Morten Hojbjerg; music, Johan Soderqvist; art director, Soren Skjaer; costume designer, Manon Rasmussen; sound (Dolby SRD), Eddie Simonsen, Kristian Eidnes Andersen. Reviewed at Sony screening room, Stockholm, March 17, 2006. (Also in Cannes Film Festival -- market.) Running time: 115 MIN.