Festen (The Celebration), Thomas Vinterburg & Lars Von Trier, 1998.


Festen (The Celebration) 1998

Contextual Studies

  • First Dogme movie shot on video 
  • Avantgarde movement with Dogme 95' techniques (It sets off film making rules that cast off the 'restrictive' rules of conventional film making, i.e. natural lighting, sound only at location not in post production and so on)
  • Dogme techniques include - handheld camera, jump cuts, camera turns towards the action rather than cutting, high angle for hauting effect within the content, peering POV, sound and vision recorded together (means not visual manipulation or sound bridges together)
  • Vow of Chasedity


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Festen Continued: CONCEPTS


  • Experimental film with the intentions of purifying traditional film making
  • Liberating constraints - creatively and artistically.
  • Powerful, instense storytelling i.e. long speeches from Christian.
  • Gritty and surrealistic, placed as third person at the party. Operating a small digital camera, cameraman Anthony Dodmantle ("Slumdog Millionare" cinematographer) mingles with actors like an extra guest at the party, sometimes physically intervening in the action.
  • The focus on character performance / uncomfortable silences / camera often being static in these moments being unable to move from the action but most time rapid. 
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Festen: Examples - MAINSTREAM vs DOGME


Opening and Arrival scene

Sound is very busy and lots of sounds over others (horns, gravel from tyres, shouts and chatters) showing a typical family gathering and very realist. You feel a part of the family gathering, especially when mingling through various conversations, and not being able to hear the conversations although you are standing right next to them - it shows exactly what you would feel as if you were there at the fathers party.

Mainstream films focus more on soundtrack to portray emotion etc. Festen is very dialogue heavy, a part of the DOGME approach. It is also intense action and heavy characterisation, you get a feel of the unique characters from the start, i.e. quiet and sneaky Christian. Goes to show that these films require a lot of contextual knowledge to fully appreciate the art of the media text and not be absorbed into the hyper reality of the media producers intentions.

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Festen: EXAMPLE 2

Christian's Dinner Speech 

Intensity of speech, all quiet (no non-diegetic soundtrack or dialogue from others). Naturalistic in terms of script / dialogue - starts speech faultering and nervous as one would normally do, trembling. The uncomfortable silences and whispers rather than dramatic response reflects the lack of superifical action and focus on natural storytelling; feels normal.

Mainstream films follow set structure, you would move within people's responses and the speech would not be long lasting as people would cut off / no active spectatorship.

Argument about the shoes

Dialogue aggressive, realist manner, swearing etc. volume lowered to hear both sides, turns to speak. 

In a mainstream film, this wouldn't work and would have to be played under a soundtrack to create the suspense needed in order to create gripping nature.

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Christians Dinner Speech 

Up close and shaky on Christian's face, intense performance in which we are lulled into, as well as being very claustrophobic, especially when revealing the abuse from the father. 

Mainstream don't use handheld shaky shots, or very rarely do in films such as a horror where it is more likely used, this is used in a way to create a message of Christian's threatiening nature and audience's automatically feel discomfort around him. 

Generally always spectatorship feel that they are intervening with events they shouldn't i..e the CCTV POV peering scene when bullying maid and the conversation between Christian and his father at the arrival scene, shadowing half their faces - mistrust. 

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Available light & long takes 

Mainstream you would be able to predict events because of the lighting but can't using DOGME. 

This is visually challenging in darker / night scenes becoming more eerie for spectatorship, playing with audience aggrivation in the forcement of confronting events. It helps with climatic build and intensity of the narrative - i.e. the haunting element. 

Forced to confront the actions of evnts and conversations through long takes.

Mainstream we would witness in alternate ways i.e. build to a climax of a truth, but find out through a less emotive way, i.e. a letter. Jump cuts are used a lot in the midst of a present action. 

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