April 13, 2007

After the Wedding

Reviewed by Martin Tsai
Oscar nominated for Best Foreign Language Film, After the Wedding is a family melodrama so jam-packed with explosive secrets and lies that it is simply an exhausting experience to endure. It’s like a year’s worth of soap opera material crammed into two hours: old flames unexpectedly reconnect, a child meets a long-lost biological dad, then someone dies of a terminal illness. 
As with her previous efforts like Brothers and Open Hearts, Danish director Susanne Bier punctuates the melodrama with Dogme 95 staples such as the handheld camera and extreme close-ups. While this chaotic aesthetic added intimacy to her previous films, it makes After the Wedding seem implausibly over the top. 
Since the protagonist Jacob (Mads Mikkelsen of Casino Royale) oversees an orphanage in Bombay, Bier first injects the powerful imagery of third-world poverty and then attempts to upstage that with petty familial issues among the first-world wealthy and privileged. Instead of eliciting liberal guilt, this juxtaposition unwittingly trivializes much of the plot development. Really, shouldn’t we be caring about the starving children in India rather than whether the estranged lovers will rekindle their relationship? After the Wedding might have actually been more interesting had it addressed Western ignorance and complacency. 
Reprinted from Willamette Week. © Copyright 2007 Martin Tsai. All rights reserved.