Follow TV Tropes

Following

Film / The Celebration
aka: Festen

Go To

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/The_Celebration_5287.jpg
Advertisement:

The Celebration (Festen) is a 1998 Danish movie directed by Thomas Vinterberg and was filmed according to the minimalist Dogme 95 guidelines.

Helge Klingenfeldt-Hansen, a respected businessman, gathers his family and friends for his 60th birthday. Amongst the guests are his wife Elsa and his three children Christian, Helene and Michael. Tensions are running high as the family is still recovering following the suicide of Christian's twin sister Linda.

As guests arrive one by one, the action moves into the dining room where the celebration is about to begin. And then Christian stands up and prepares to make a speech. However, he gives his father a choice. Does he want a yellow speech or a green speech? After being coaxed by his guests, Helge settles on the green speech, which Christian has dubbed the "honest speech." The guests have no idea what kind of dark family secrets are going to see the light of day as Christian begins his speech...

Advertisement:

The Film Contains Examples Of:

  • Abusive Parents: Helge, who raped his children Christian and Linda, while they were growing up, and Else through inaction - Christian reveals that she walked in on Helge while this was happening on at least one occasion.
  • Awful Truth: The revelation of the sexual abuse.
  • Based on a Great Big Lie: Vinterberg stated that the story was inspired by story told by a caller to a phone-in show which subsequently turned out to be a hoaxer.
  • Beneath the Mask: Even during Christian's speech and its immediate aftermath, Helge remains seemingly unperturbed to the point where it's not entirely clear if Christian is telling the truth or not. When he is alone with Christian, the facade slips and he verbally rips Christian apart in a very condescending manner, using his Beserk Buttons of Linda's death and his trauma-induced fear of intimacy against him.
Advertisement:
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: It's like watching a a gigantic familial pile-up. To elaborate, the eldest children (Christian and Linda) were repeatedly abused, to the point where Linda eventually killed herself shortly before the start of the film; Helene is a radical who enjoys making her family uncomfortable mainly through her choice of boyfriends; Michael is a thug with extreme "Well Done, Son!" Guy tendencies, and both Helge and Else are responsible for the abuse suffered by Christian and Linda.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Christian has succeeded in his mission and Helge has been outed as a monster and subsequently rejected by his family, but he reminds them that they are still his family and it's implied none of them will ever want to see each other again.
  • Black Sheep: Subverted slightly by Helene. She tries hard to get her family to see her as this, but she is ultimately just like the rest of them. In actuality, the black sheep is arguably Christian since he abandons the family's veneer of respectability and, according to Helge, has done so repeatedly ever since he was a child.
  • Break Them by Talking: Helge attempts to do this to Christian in a private confrontation after Christian makes his speech, threatening to make his pwn speech about how mentally unstable Christian is and telling him that no one cares about what he's said. It almost works.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: The entire movie is about Christian confronting Helge and his attempts to get everyone at the party to understand what kind of a man Helge really is. In the process, Else also gets called out for being an Accomplice by Inaction.
  • Can't Hold His Liquor: Michael. He gets drunk very quickly and continues consuming alcohol throughout the party, which results in some pretty nasty behaviour to everyone around him.
  • Driven to Suicide: Linda, shortly before the start of the movie. It's gradually revealed to have been due to the lasting trauma of the abuse she and Christian suffered at the hands of their father.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Christian, big time. After a childhood of abuse which left him deeply traumatised, and suffering emotionally and mentally from the recent suicide of his sister, he finally confronts his father and gets the man's friends and family to see what kind of person he really is. By the end, it's implied that some of the trauma might be on the way towards starting to heal.
  • Gratuitous German: Courtesy of the German toastmaster Helmut von Sachs, who frequently lapses into German and refers to Helge and Helene as: "Meine dänische Vater und Mutter."
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Of a kind. Christian has written two speeches for Helge's birthday and gives Helge the choice on which speech he will make. It's never revealed what the unchosen speech contained (or even if the speeches were at all different in the first place) but the one Helge picks is the one in which Christian outs him as a paedophile who abused him and his sister.
  • Jerkass: So many to choose from... But Michael remains undisputed king by the end of the movie: he attacks a former lover, refuses to believe his brother (who has little reason to be lying), displays several racist and misogynistic beliefs, beats up his brother and helps to tie him up and leave him in the woods.
  • Karma Houdini: Else, who despite being accused by Christian of witnessing his abuse and doing absolutely nothing to prevent it and repeatedly painting him as a liar after he gives his speech is allowed to eat breakfast with the family the next day and seemingly faces no repercussions from them.
  • Minimalism: The film was made with a minimalist musical score, without post-production, as a protest against Hollywood practices.
  • Mood Whiplash: You're laughing, you're cringing, you're creeped out, you're appalled, you're crying.. And hey, you're laughing again!
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Helmut von Sachs is portrayed by a Danish actor. His German accent is actually spot-on, but he does make a few grammatical flubs when his character speaks German.
  • Parental Incest: Helge repeatedly sexually abused his twin children, Christian and Linda, throughout their childhood.
  • Rape as Drama: The main driver of the plot is the revelation of incest in the family.
  • Sibling Rivalry: In spades. Helene and Michael both appear to view Christian as being the favourite of his parents which makes Christian's accusation all the more difficult for them to believe.
  • Stepford Smiler: Else who has been aware of her husband's abuse of their children for decades tries to laugh off Christian's speech and is seemingly the last person to accept the truth.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Helge after Linda's letter is read out, to the point where all pretext of respectability is finally drops and he screams at his guests and indirectly admits to raping his children by telling Christian that it was "all [he] was good for".
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Michael takes this trope to disturbing levels. At one point, he even goes so far as to knock Christian out, tie him up and drag him out to the woods - and it's implied he does this to gain his father's approval.
  • Wham Line:
    • "It's all you were good for."
    • And before that, "You sexually abused us, you raped us, you had sex with us little ones."
  • While Rome Burns: The film's all about denial, which is how a lot of the guests are still able to carry on partying despite the family's implosion.

Alternative Title(s): Festen

Top

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:

/

Media sources:

/

Report