Festen (The Celebration) (1998)

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Released 14-Jan-2008

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Featurette-Making Of-The Making of the Celebration
Interviews-Crew-The Disclosure of the Celebration
Featurette-The Celebration in Retrospect
Deleted Scenes-45 minutes of cut scenes with optional director's commentary
Theatrical Trailer-Theatrical trailer including footage from Cannes
Trailer-Umbrella trailer for Ossessione
Trailer-Umbrella trailer for A Short Film About Love
Trailer-Umbrella trailer for A Short Film About Killing
Trailer-Umbrella trailer for Insomnia (The Original Version)
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1998
Running Time 100:50 (Case: 102)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (94:37) Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Thomas Vinterberg

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Ulrich Thomsen
Henning Moritzen
Thomas Bo Larsen
Paprika Steen
Birthe Neumann
Trine Dyrholm
Helle Dolleris
Therese Glahn
Klaus Bondam
Bjarne Henriksen
Gbatokai Dakinah
Lasse Lunderskov
Lars Brygmann
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $24.95 Music Lars Bo Jensen

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame Danish Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Festen (translated into English - The Celebration) was a small budget Danish film completed in 1998 by Thomas Vinterberg. There are three unique things that make this film notable. Firstly, it was the first film made that was certified as a Dogme 95 film, secondly the subject matter deals with incest and thirdly, the film shared the Jury Prize at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival (this is the third most prestigious prize at the festival, after the Palme d'Or and the Grand Prix).

    The Dogme 95 filmmaking movement was a series of rules drawn up by four Danish directors Lars von Trier, Thomas Vinterberg, Kristian Levring and Soren Kragh-Jacobsen. The rules were a guide for filmmakers to follow as a vow of chastity, a vow by filmmakers to shoot a film without the need for gimmicks, big budgets and extensive post-production editing. Festen was the first film released under the Dogme 95 manifesto, which included the following ten rules:

    1. Filming must be done on location. Props and sets must not be brought in (if a particular prop is necessary for the story, a location must be chosen where this prop is to be found).

    2. The sound must never be produced apart from the images or vice versa. (Music must not be used unless it occurs within the scene being filmed, i.e., diegetic).

    3. The camera must be a hand-held camera. Any movement or immobility attainable in the hand is permitted. (The film must not take place where the camera is standing; filming must take place where the action takes place.)

    4. The film must be in colour. Special lighting is not acceptable. (If there is too little light for exposure the scene must be cut or a single lamp be attached to the camera).

    5. Optical work and filters are forbidden.

    6. The film must not contain superficial action. (Murders, weapons, etc. must not occur.)

    7. Temporal and geographical alienation are forbidden. (That is to say that the film takes place here and now.)

    8. Genre movies are not acceptable.

    9. The final picture must be transferred to the Academy 35mm film, with an aspect ratio of 4:3, that is, not widescreen. (Originally, the requirement was that the film had to be filmed on Academy 35mm film, but the rule was relaxed to allow low-budget productions.)

    10. The director must not be credited.

    The restrictions on shooting the film means that Festen looks like a live-action documentary film. The non-use of background music makes the viewer feel that they are part of the cast, especially as the camerawork is mostly close-up and middle distance shots (as a lot of the film was shot on indoor location, long-distance shots would thus require artificial lighting to remain clear and in focus, something that is not allowed under dogme 95 rules), one feels that they are part of the party that occurs throughout the majority of the film. Thus, the rules that guided this film makes the difficult subject matter more accessible to the audience, you feel engaged in the story line, and the film really becomes riveting in the second act, after the orientation of the first act where we are introduced to the film's characters.

    Festen in fact is therefore a somewhat ironic title for the film, as by the end you realise that a celebration has in fact taken place, but not the conventional type introduced at the beginning of the film where the main and supporting characters gather at a hotel to celebrate a father's 60th birthday.

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Transfer Quality


    The film was shot using hand-held cameras, as stipulated under the dogme 95 manifesto, so this restriction, together with need to shoot on location and with only natural light means that Festen contains many instances of video artefacts, especially in scenes with low light or at night time.

    The aspect ratio of the film is 1:33:1 (this is in accordance with rule 9 of dogme 95 which only allows for films to be shot in academy ratio, i.e. fullscreen). The film is not 16x9 enhanced for widescreen televisions.

    Festen has a grainy look throughout due to low level noise. The film was shot on video and then transferred to 35mm film, artefacts such as colour bleeding, cross colouration, chroma noise occurs at 5:50, 9:02, 19:58, 36:12, 42:30, 50:32 - 50:54 and 51:13 - 51:41. Macro-blocking (as a side-effect of the aforementioned issues) can be seen during the night time scenes starting from the 73:00 minute mark to about the 91:00 minute mark of the film. Specific instances of this artefact occur at 73:00 - 73:30, 80:26 - 80:31, 81:44 - 81:48, 83:02 - 84:20, 86:30 - 86:43, 87:53 - 88:29 and 91:07 - 92:02.

    There are many scenes shot on location indoors without artificial lighting so the overall look of the film is dull.

    Minor film artefacts occur at 4:41, 4:59, 7:01, 28:38, 35:53, 59:51, 66:52 and 72:24.

    Subtitles are in English and are white and unobtrusive to the action.

    RSDL change occurs at 94:37, right in the middle of a scene unfortunately!

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    Under rule 2 of the dogme 95 manifesto, no music may be used that is not sourced from within the film. This means that Festen is a dialogue-driven film, without any added sound effects.

    The main soundtrack is a Danish Dolby Digital 2.0 track encoded for 384 kbps. Essentially it is in mono.

    Dialogue can be difficult to decipher at times. The film is in Danish this would only be an issue for you if you played the film without the optional subtitles in English.

    Music is diegetic and can only be heard when a song is played on the piano or when the main cast dance along to a song.

    As the film is in mono, there is no surround channel usage

    The Subwoofer is not utilised in the soundtrack.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Featurette - Making Of - The Making of the Celebration – intriguing behind-the-scenes footage (24:02)

This featurette includes the actors discussing their parts and the rules of the dogme 95 manifesto. Director Thomas Vinterberg discusses the influence of Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather and Ingmar Bergman's Fanny Alexander upon the screenplay and the inclusion of a cameo scene (he plays the taxi driver at the 45:00 minute mark of the film) due to the lack of credit for the director. The cast and crew then discuss their win at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival.

Interviews - Crew - The Disclosure of the Celebration – Director Thomas Vinterberg discusses the origins of the film (9:34)

Vinterberg shares the origin of the story behind Festen. He discusses legal issues and how he met the man who shared his life story of abuse on the same Danish radio program that Vinterberg had listened to. It seems that the man had lifted his story from a nurse who had shared it with him, he had apparently done this as a way of dealing with his shame from his illness from AIDS.

Featurette - The Celebration in Retrospect – an extensive cast and crew featurette (28:54)

This extra was filmed years after Festen was shot and premiered at Cannes. There are titles in this retrospective with cast and crew sharing their memories of the project in relation to the script, film technique, title, distribution, initial impressions, sin (or cheating the dogme 95 rules) and thoughts on Festen.

Deleted Scenes (43:51)

These are 12 deleted scenes with optional commentary by director Thomas Vinterberg. I suggest playing this extra with Vinterberg's commentary as he explains why these scenes were left out, usually for plot reasons. Because the film was shot cheaply on video, 80 to 100 hours of footage was shot, which was then edited to a final running time of around 100 minutes. This is why the film took six months to edit.

Theatrical Trailer

This short theatrical trailer begins and ends with footage from the 1998 Cannes Film Festival.

Trailer - Ossessione (5:09)

An Umbrella trailer for Ossessione by Luchino Visconti.

Trailer - A Short Film About Love (2:31)

An Umbrella trailer for A Short Film About Love by Krzysztof Kieslowski.

Trailer - A Short Film About Killing (2:36)

An Umbrella trailer for A Short Film About Killing by Krzysztof Kieslowski.

Trailer - Insomnia (1:38)

An Umbrella trailer for Insomnia by Erik Skjoldbjaerg.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

   Festen has been released in Region 1 in the United States and Canada, Region 2 in Denmark, France, Germany, Italy and The Netherlands and in Region 0 (i.e. region-free) in the United Kingdom and China.

    The Region 1 Canadian and US releases have no extras. The Canadian release has a French dub.

    The Region 2 Italian release has text extras with an Italian dub.

    The Region 2 Dutch release has text extras including an interview with director Thomas Vinterberg and an alternative ending featurette.

    The Region 2 German release has text extras with a German dub.

    The Region 2 French release has an interview with director Thomas Vinterberg and cast biographies but includes a French dub soundtrack, the original Danish soundtrack is omitted.

    The Region 2 Danish release by distribution company, Sandbox includes an alternative ending, an interview with director Thomas Vinterberg and cast and crew biographies. This release also contains English subtitles.

    The Region 2 Danish 10th Anniversary release by Sandrew Metronome comes in a box set with other notable dogme 95 films, The Idiots, Mifuneand The King Is Alive. This release includes a 16 page booklet, an audio commentary with director Thomas Vinterberg, a 57-minute documentary on the co-scriptwriter of Festen, Mogens Rukov, The Celebration in retrospect featurette, the disclosure of The Celebration featurette, The Making of The Celebration featurette and Deleted Scenes with optional commentary by director Thomas Vinterberg.

    The Region 0 Chinese release has a "bumped up" Danish Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack.

    The Region 0 UK release contains only text extras.

    The Region 2 10th Anniversary Sandrew Metronome release, with the director's commentary and documentary on Rukov is the best release, however it is a box set including the other dogme95 films. The Region 4 Umbrella release, with three featurettes found on the 10th Anniversary release and deleted scenes, represents the best value-for-quality version of Festen currently available.


    Dogme 95 was a film movement that emphasised low budget filmmaking. The rules of the movement emphasised simplicity and a focus on narrative. However, these values have been put into effect before during the history of cinema. The French New Wave had similar filmmaking values during the 1960s, however production values were not as compromised. Although these films of this era were shot on location, and inventive shooting techniques were employed (dolly-track shooting was done in a trolley for instance on Jean-Luc Godard's 1959 film, A Bout de Souffle), the cinematography and sound editing was not as compromised as what is present on Festen and the other dogme 95 films that came after. Raoul Coutard (the most famous French New Wave cinematographer at the time) also used natural lighting and hand-held cameras on his films for Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut, however even 50 years later these films are more polished then Festen. The point I'm trying to make is that the dogme 95 manifesto was an attempt at a filmmaking style that was done in a better way during the 1960s.

    What about shooting with low light? Well, again if we go back to Stanley Kubrick's 1975 feature, Barry Lyndon, one can see how well a film can be shot using just candlelights indoors. Of course cinematographer John Alcott used reflectors in those scenes in Barry Lyndon, but he did not use artificial lights. Barry Lyndon was shot mainly with a Mitchell BNC camera with a modified Carl Zeiss lens, also Barry Lyndon was shot purely on location. Kubrick and Alcott wanted to capture the essence of 19th century Europe, that is why they shot using candlelights. However, working this way is so laborious and time-consuming it was no wonder that Kubrick resorted to indoor set shooting and steadicam work for his next feature, The Shining. I would say that shooting Festen during low-light scenes and at night-time would have been difficult work if the use of artificial lighting was not employed. The dogme95 values have been used by filmmakers before, but utilised in a more effective way, thus it's no surprise that this movement has now disbanded as of 2005.

    Despite the basic production techniques used to make Festen, the film is actually thought-provoking and engaging, even if the subject matter is confronting. The inclusion of quality extras from Australian distributor, Umbrella Entertainment means that the Region 4 release represents a quality release in comparison to other DVD releases of Festen.

Ratings (out of 5)


© John Stivaktas (I like my bio)
Thursday, June 04, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S550, using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA46A650 46 Inch LCD TV Series 6 FullHD 1080P 100Hz. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderSony STR-K1000P. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationSony HTDDW1000
SpeakersSony 6.2 Surround (Left, Front, Right, Surround Left, Surround Back, Surround Right, 2 subwoofers)

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