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Festen (1998)
Thomas Vinterberg, Denmark

Dysfunctional families have become so commonplace in movies and television that they should really be put into a sub-genre within each medium. There's obviously a spectrum here in terms of how dysfunctional a depicted family might be, and for me, this spectrum was stretched long ago by Thomas Vinterberg in Festen. Each revelation in the story unravels something that ousts everything before it, and you end up delving deeper and deeper into this dark and twisted fictional 'family'. For some odd reason, despite portraying some truly outlandish things, it's not completely impossible to connect with these characters. And that's probably because of the constrained environment in which the film is built on, which might have a thing or two to do with the Dogme 95 manifesto. I won't speak too much about the Dogme 95 aspect of Festen, as it's something that I can admit to knowing far too little about. But with some cursory knowledge of its general concept, the limitation-setting framework of creating a story on film certainly works in the movie's favour. You truly feel trapped within the context of the story, which I presume is exactly how the characters at this diner party feel too. The minimalistic choices also add to the sense of realism permeating each scene. Much like the characters in the film, you're brought into this 'celebration' at the very beginning, and find yourself staying put because there's simply nowhere else to go. It's an odd feeling, but completely fitting for a film like Festen.

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