After the Wedding is a 2006 Danish film now widely available on DVD. It received an Academy Award nomination for best foreign language film last year. It is one of the best stories that I’ve seen on film this year. It begins with Jacob (Casino Royale villain, Mads Mikkelsen), who is running an orphanage in India. The scenes here bring back powerful remembrances to me personally since I did work there in several such settings in the 1980s, but for only a month at a time. Jacob is an idealistic, guarded and emotionally reserved guy who you sense immediately has a past that powerfully influences his present. He returns to Denmark to get money for his work from a wealthy businessman and potential benefactor named Jorgen (Rolf Lassgard).
Jacob feels very out-of-place in his five-star hotel penthouse suite and wants desperately to return to India and his work. But his life is about to be radically altered in a way that he could never have imagined. Invited by Jorgen, innocently enough as a gesture of friendship, to attend his daughter’s wedding Jacob is then faced with a series of devastating surprises that bring back all of his past and that of a number of other characters who all relate to him in the movie. This is what makes After the Wedding so very powerful. It is a great story, and it is well told. The director, Susanne Bier, does a superb job with this type of film, allowing the actors to develop their parts freely. (The interview with Susanne on this DVD version is one of the very best such interviews with a film director I have ever seen. It gives you unique insights into the art of film making, such as editing. She argues that you must learn to "kill your darlings" if you would present a coherent and not-too-long film that works. I wish preachers, especially me, were taught this as young men learning how to communicate well.)
Bier argues that her approach to story telling is to say, in effect, "Now hear this . . . " A film, she says, should not be complicated but the process of making one that is not complicated is sometimes difficult. Again, this advice works for many communicators and she works it well in this wonderful film. In effect Bier is asking, in After the Wedding, "What ethical values do we still hold dear and how can we present those in a dramatic and emotional way?" She is not melodramatic so she employs the emotional aspects very well by using close-ups of peoples eyes and faces in the most unusual ways. I have rarely seen such in film.
The end of After the Wedding is powerful as the story works to its conclusion. I will not give it away the end but be prepared to discuss it with anyone else who has seen it. Not only does the story work well but it underscores questions like: "How do we do charity?" And, "Is motive what really matters in helping people?"