The Celebration (Festen) just couldn't be made in America. For one thing, Thomas Vinterberg's picture (he cowrote and directed) adheres to the minimalist principles of the Danish director's group, Dogma 95. But more important, this harrowing account of a family's coming to terms with an awful secret is shockingly honest and unflinching in its indictment.
A subtle, artful movie that keeps viewers riveted as much because of its imaginative, vérité style as its explosive content, The Celebration takes place during a single afternoon and evening, with an epilogue the following morning. The action occurs at a luxury hotel, at which Helge (Moritzen), the contented family patriarch, is celebrating his 60th birthday. When his troubled children (Thomsen, Larsen, Steen) arrive, however, his perfect world begins to unravel.