Must-watch Mondays: Thomas Vinterberg

Must-watch Mondays

The top three films you should be watching this week

This week: Thomas Vinterberg

With the release of Far From the Madding Crowd, everyone is paying attention to the Danish director Thomas Vinterberg. However, he doesn’t just make British films – Thomas Vinterberg is very well known in Denmark as one of the creators behind Dogme95 (alongside Lars von Trier) as well as for a string of successful Danish films. The most famous, which we assume you know, is The Hunt. So, lets not look at that one. Lets look closer to the local successes. So what are they?

1. The Celebration

The Father turns 60. His family, which is a big one of the kind, gathers to celebrate him on a castle. Everybody likes and respects the father deeply…or do they? The Youngest Son is trying to live up to The Father’s expectations. He is running a grill-bar in a dirty part of Copenhagen. The oldest son runs a restaurant in France, while the sister is a anthropologist. The older sister has recently committed suicide and the father asks the oldest son to say a few words about her, because he is afraid he will break into tears if he does it himself. The oldest son agrees without arguments. Actually he has already written two speeches. A yellow and a green one. By the table, he asks the father to pick a speech. The father chooses green. The oldest son announces that this is the Speech of Truth. Everybody laughs, except for the father who gets a nervous look on his face. For he knows that the oldest son is about to reveal the secret of why the oldest sister killed herself. – IMDb

The Celebration (or Festen in Danish) is not just the first official Dogme film – but it’s also the most famous and arguably the best of the Dogme films. It is generally mentioned in Scandinavian film studies as one of the ones to watch, and we have covered it extensively in the magazine. For us, we like the slow build up and initial dismissal of any drama. The film explodes towards the end, and the structure is inspired what a lot of contemporary Danish films have today. Fun fact, The film was declared to be the worst-dubbed movie released in 1999, in Germany. Also, while the film is ‘quintessential’ Dogme, Thomas Vinterberg later admitted to breaking some rules.

2. Submarino

As children, Nick and his little brother take care of their baby brother while their mother drinks herself senseless. But the baby dies, and both brothers blame themselves. Many years later, Nick is out of prison after serving time for an assault. He drinks, lives in a shelter and tries to help an old friend. When their mother dies, Nick meets his brother at the funeral. The brother, who remains nameless, is a single father to a young boy, but also supports a drug habit that is spiralling out of control. When an opportunity presents itself, he becomes a drug dealer to secure his son’s future. Eventually, the two brothers meet again. – IMDb

Submarino isn’t so well known out of Denmark, but boy is it worth watching. Within ten minutes of the film you are shocked, and the story just continues from there. It’s deep, dark, and traumatic. However, it is also incredibly raw and emotional. We don’t want to give too much away – we just recommend going out and watching it asap.

3. When a Man Comes Home

A small provincial town is buzzing with excitement: the town’s most illustrious son, a world-famous opera singer, is coming home. Meanwhile, Sebastian, a kitchen boy who is as good as married, falls head over heels in love with the new maid, Maria. Their love affair, along with rumours that the opera singer and the kitchen boy are related, turns the town upside down, threatening to ruin everyone’s high expectations and the opera singer’s triumphant return. – IMDb

We are only aware of this one because it is very close to one of the biggest Swedish films of all time – As it is in Heaven. The similarities are so close because the Swedish film was insanely popular. However, the formula did not work and When a Man Comes Home only did mediocre.



Thomas Vinterberg is currently in post-production for his next Danish film, The Commune

Emma Vestrheim

Emma Vestrheim is the editor-in-chief of Cinema Scandinavia. Originally from Australia, she is now based in Bergen, Norway, and attends major Nordic film festivals to conduct interviews and review new films.