Directed by: Susanne Bier
Written by: Susanne Bier & Anders Thomas Jensen
Starring: Mads Mikklsen, Sidse Babett Knudesen, Rolf Lassgard, Stine Fischer Christensen
The actions of our past can forever haunt us, but at times we get the opportunity to make amends for them as shown in this beautifully dramatic film. After the Wedding tests the resolve of a man trying to do the best for those around him when faced with situations of familial obligations and the care for others.
Jacob (Mads Mikkelsen) helps run an Indian orphanage that faces financial strife and may be near bankruptcy. When given the opportunity to receive funding, he becomes skeptical of leaving the community behind, but he decides that he must go back home to Denmark to secure the future of the orphanage. There he meets the CEO philanthropist Rolf Lassgård (Jørgen Lennart Hansson), who invites Jacob to his daughter’s wedding during his time in Denmark. At this particular wedding, Jacob learns about his past and what he left behind in his hometown.
Melodramas may go a bit far at times, but when executed with this much sincerity and affection, it results in a beautifully told story. Susanne Bier accomplishes that when she focuses on the eyes of these characters, as they serve as a gateway to their souls. Much gets revealed throughout the story that changes the lives and perspectives of the characters involved. Secrets get divulged and plenty of hearts are broken. Through it all, the characters try to stay firm and keep face, but Bier and the camera focus on their eyes and tells the real story of the pain they experience because of the revelations. It allows these characters to process their feelings, which eventually comes to the surface as the story progresses.
It certainly helps with Mads Mikkelsen portrays the character of Jacob with such finesse. Jacob gave up his life in Denmark because he wanted to do good in order to atone for his past mistakes. He lived a life where he did not remain faithful to those he loved and hurt others. He sees himself as someone trying to make up for it by living life helping orphans in India. While on a macro-level it may seem misguided to use others as a gateway to get meaning from life, but the story forced Jacob to confront his wrongdoings and make decisions to make amends for them. Mikkelsen captures the essence of Jacob and his struggle to take responsibility for his wrongdoings and commitments.
Even when the circumstances call for jarring reactions, Bier employs an incredible warmth to the story and her characters create a caring environment. No character has actual malice in their hearts with their actions and that brings a wonderful air of connectedness and family to every single person in the story. The reveal may make itself obvious as the story progresses, but everything that occurs feels incredibly human and lacking any artificiality. Lacking those genuine human moments may be the detriment to many melodramas, as things occur to unrealistic degrees but After the Wedding captures the pain that occurs with the decisions made by these characters.
After the Wedding knocked me out with its story and the characters that inhabit its script. It follows a narrative that might be unrealistic but makes it feel real with the way the characters react to the situation presented to them. It serves as Susanne Bier’s greatest film and one where she utilized all of her strengths at their apex. That along with her cast put the humanity of the characters front and center for the audience to empathize. It shows the incredible work of Danish filmmakers and telling stories that can connect with everyone around the globe because familial responsibilities and duty come with many of our experiences.