- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 12, 2007

“After the Wedding” ostensibly follows an orphanage director whose attempt to wring funding out of a millionaire collapses under the weight of personal demons. Audiences will be far more fascinated by the man holding the purse strings.

The Danish feature, an Oscar nominee for best foreign language film, offers a dynamic portrait of power in the person of Rolf Lassgard’s mogul. The actor’s achievement in making the millionaire so layered may require repeat viewings to absorb it all.

The rest of the film is nearly as nourishing.

Jacob (“Casino Royale’s” memorable villain Mads Mikkelsen) is a Dane running an orphanage in a blighted Indian neighborhood. A Danish millionaire named Jorgen (Mr. Lassgard) offers to give the orphanage some much needed cash, but only if Jacob will visit Jorgen personally in Copenhagen.

The two meet, but Jorgen keeps the encounter brief. He makes amends by inviting Jacob to his daughter’s wedding the following day. Jacob would rather pass, but he can’t be rude to a man who could keep the orphanage funded for decades.

The wedding introduces Jacob to Jorgen’s wife, Helene (Sidse Babett Knudsen). It’s clear they’ve met before, given the meaningful glances exchanged, then set aside. Their reunion’s repercussions eventually involve most of the film’s key players.

There’s genuine sleight of hand at work in Anders Thomas Jensen’s script. Lesser minds might take the tragedy streaked throughout “Wedding” and elicit as many eye rolls as tears. For a rough American comparison, try 1983’s “Terms of Endearment,” another soaper that soared above its mawkish themes.

Danish director Susanne Bier trains her camera directly on her stars, sometimes filling the screen with a moist eye or mouth. It’s momentarily disconcerting, but it brings us closer to the characters. We feel like we’re dropping in on personal moments we have no right to intrude upon.

Mr. Mikkelsen makes Jacob sympathetic yet hard to embrace. The more we learn about his past, the more we distance ourselves from him, but the earliest scenes of him spending quiet time with the Indian children anchor the character.

Mr. Lassgard’s Jorgen is powerful but hopelessly out of shape, a man who gently reads to his children but commands everyone around him like a modulated drill sergeant. His booming voice alone is enough to keep underlings at arm’s length.

Yet his is the character we hang on, even while our minds never forget the eyes of those Indian children.

“After the Wedding” didn’t win the Oscar earlier this year, but it remains one of this year’s most memorable moviegoing experiences.

***1/2

TITLE: “After the Wedding”

RATING: R (Partial nudity, adult language and a sexual situation)

CREDITS: Directed by Susanne Bier. Written by Miss Bier and Anders Thomas Jensen. In Danish with English subtitles

RUNNING TIME: 120 minutes

WEB SITE: www.afterthewedding movie.com

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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