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Festen (The Celebration) is a Danish drama film from director Thomas Vinterberg. It was the first film to be released within the Dogme 95 cinematic movement. The avant-garde Dogme movement was established in Denmark by filmmakers Vinterberg and Lars Von Trier. In an effort to “purify” filmmaking, by rejecting special effects, technical gimmicks and mass post-production, they put in place a manifesto of rules (“Vow of Chastity”) that any director, wishing to submit a Dogme film, must abide by.

For example rules included:

  • Shooting must take place on location, and any props used must be found at the location. Props and sets must not be brought in.
  • All sound must be natural. Use of music or sound effects is prohibited, unless it takes place within the scene.
  • The film must be in colour.
  • Optical work and camera filters are forbidden.
  • The director must not be credited.

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There are further intricacies within the rules, and more aspects of filmmaking that are disallowed, and since Festen there have been over 30 films produced that have been accepted as genuine Dogme 95 features. It’s a filmmaking movement has has always fascinated me. Festen is an absolutely outstanding piece of work. Genuinely tense, moving, shocking and wonderfully played by the ensemble cast.

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Denmark has produced some amazing film talent over the years, and Thomas Vinterberg has gone on to direct some brilliantly powerful dramas such as 2010’s Submarino and 2012’s The Hunt. With the films critical success and accolades at various awards ceremonies and festivals, lead actor Ulrich Thomsen was brought into the limelight and from there has gone on to star in many movies, in both Europe and Hollywood and has most recently been seen as Kai Procter in TV’s Banshee.

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