After the Wedding

Last night I had the pleasure of watching After the Wedding, a Danish movie starring the strange-looking yet somehow sexy Mads Mikkelsen.

After the Wedding spoke to me in a way that a film hasn’t in a while. It begins with Danish man Jacob (Mikkelson), who lives in India and works at an orphanage. He is sent back to Denmark to meet with a wealthy man named Jørgen, who is considering becoming a donor to the orphanage. Once Jacob is back in Denmark, he finds himself drawn into Jørgen’s family, and gradually the extent of Jørgen’s interest in Jacob becomes apparent. I won’t tell you anymore because I urge you to watch it for yourself (for those of you in the US, it’s available on Netflix).

Why did I enjoy After the Wedding so much? Well for one thing, it nailed the contrast between the poverty of India and the luxury of Denmark. I’ve never been to India or Denmark, but in terms of making this comparison, I think you can substitute most developing countries for India and most western countries for Denmark. The film does a beautiful job of switching between Jacob’s simple, dirty yet warm life in India—to the clean, quiet and excessive luxury he encounters in both his hotel room and Jørgen’s home.

After the Wedding touched on something else that I can really appreciate. Jacob really cares about the children and people he works with in India. He hasn’t technically got his own family (no wife, no children of his own), despite being there for over 20 years. But India has clearly become very dear to Jacob—especially Pramod, the 8 year old orphan Jacob has raised since he was a baby.

When Jacob returns to Denmark, he tries to resist the forces that are trying to prevent him from returning to India. And yet, there is a sense of inevitability that he will remain in Denmark. I wonder if the film’s writer/director Susanne Bier was trying to make a statement about people belonging in their own country, especially in one of the final scenes between Jacob and Pramod. Or perhaps she’s just saying that while you can escape your roots and past for a time, you may eventually be pulled home by some force or another.

While all of the characters were strong, I adored Jørgen. It is difficult to convey Jørgen’s complexity without giving away the storyline. He is wonderful with his young twins, Martin and Morten. Jørgen and his wife Helene (who incidentally looks fantastic for her age—one of the advantages of limited UV in Scandinavia I suppose) are so clearly in love in some scenes. And yet, there are moments when Jørgen is rather awful to Helene.

Jørgen gets disgracefully drunk in public on at least one occasion, bullying the owner of the restaurant who refuses to serve him more schnapps. And yet, Jørgen has a moment of such palpable vulnerability towards the end that I found myself bawling uncontrollably into my martini. He is wealthy, powerful, and somewhat arrogant in his belief that he can control everything, and yet, you begin to realize it all comes from a good place.

Most of all, the film beautifully captures the nuances of real life. I can’t explain them all in words, so you’ll have have to watch and see for yourself.

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