food in the arts



Dir: Thomas Vinterberg/Denmark/1998/106mins/sub-titles


A beautiful country mansion, lavish interiors and a party of well-to-do guests gathered around an elegantly-laid dinner table. It’s the perfect setting to celebrate the 60th birthday of prosperous patriarch Helge Klingenfeldt.

But the ordered social ritual of eating and speech making is shattered by the intimate revelations of prodigal son Christian, who has returned to Denmark from Paris to attend the family reunion.

This black comedy of manners has a raw edge derived from the Dogme style of film making, which insists on 35mm format hand-held cameras, shooting only with available natural light, no added music or sound, no props, no make-up and no costumes. 

The Dogme manifesto was drawn up in 1995 by a collective of Danish directors, including Vinterberg and Lars von Trier (Breaking the Waves), as a reaction against the conventional heavy-handed ‘literary’ genre of Danish cinematic conventions.

“Dogme is about escaping mediocrity, renewal, challenge and integrity to the characters and settings,” explains the 29-year-old director.

The result is a disorientating and immediate naturalism which catapults you into an emotionally excruciating drama, in which the reactions of the guests are as compelling as the story which unfolds.                                              

Once again, it goes to prove that low-budget movies - Festen cost only 609,000 - can be front-runners. 

Susan Wolk - Director London Food Film Fiesta

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Das Fest (dvd) -

Festen -