"The Celebration" Is Released

The Celebration is a 1998 Danish film whose plot was inspired by a hoax which was broadcast on a Danish radio station.

Hearing it inspired director Thomas Vinterberg and Mogens Rukov to write the script. Its original Danish title is Festen, and it was released under this title in the UK. The film tells the story of a family gathering to celebrate their father's 60th birthday. At the birthday dinner, his eldest son publicly accuses him of sexually abusing and raping both him and his twin sister (who had just recently committed suicide).

Working under a set of self-imposed restrictions that are meant to return filmmaking to a fundamental honesty, the Danish director Thomas Vinterberg shows off dazzling ingenuity. The story of a family reunion that becomes a black-tie psyche-bashing blowout is told with a hand-held camera, without any special lighting or props or sound, and the effect is invigorating rather than austere. Imaginative angles, nimble editing and fluid, agile camera work keep the film spinning as a large Danish cast makes the festivities seem utterly real. The central drama is Shakespeare for the tell-all age, as a patriarch is haunted by past sins and vengeful children. "It is quite a job being toastmaster tonight," says one partygoer, putting it mildly. — Janet Maslin, The New York Times