The Remission of Sins By Paulo Portugal
“I buy the remission of my sins”, declares the wealthy businessman Jorgen (a strong performance by the Swedish Rolf Lassgard), at the climax of After the Wedding (Efter brylluppet), this powerful family drama, cleverly directed by Susanne Bier, the director responsible for Open Hearts and Brothers. Probably he was referring to the sins of being exceedingly rich, but also for the inability of buying life itself.
Jacob (Mads Mikkelsen) doesn’t seem too impressed when he travels from the slums of India to the luxury hi-tech offices of high ranking businessmen, for an important meeting with Rolf, following a generous offer for his needy orphanage centre. Not even when a millionaire sum is advanced. The generosity is not in case, but only the price to pay to get it. That is to run this ‘now’ business in Denmark , and also jeopardizing his plans of adopting an Indian boy, Pramod (Neeral Mulchandani). Soon, a rollercoaster of events will pull back Jacob’s old life of sex and drugs to the expectation that he might have left something behind that connects him to this man and family.
It’s at the wedding of his patron daughter, Anne (Stine Fischer Christensen), to one of his employees (Christian Tafdrup), that Jacob recognizes her mother, Helene (Sidse Babett Knuddsen), from his own past and now connected to this family secret. Then he understands clearly the purpose of the generosity of that loving father and husband.
Without giving away much of the clever script, co-written by Anders Thomas Jensen and Bier, this is the dilemma of one man (Jorgen) who has to give up more than his own possessions for his own remission of sins, and another (Jacob) discovers more about his own life after it has been given a new purpose. It’s a pure genre film that the director gives us, but where the subtle melodrama is underlined by a surprising change of players in life’s unfair game.
With a very acute and precise tone, Bier plays with the hard contrast of the rich and famous and of those who settle for almost nothing. Jorgen may have a room full of hunting trophies, but when he looks into the dead creatures’ eyes he doesn’t see his own reflection anymore. It’s the aftermath that counts here, the grasp of a breath of life, that unspoken religion that Susan Bier brings in After the Wedding. It can be a sure, no risk taken, and well intended theme – here we’re far from the audacity of Festen by her fellow dogma director Thomas Vinterberg – but this is clearly a mature work that can be gladly applaud.
Even if it’s a film dominated by two male characters, it’s the emotional feminine tone that guide us through the intelligent score by Johan Soderqvits, that also serves impeccably the disturbing and sensible direction of Miss Bier showing security in every frame.
It comes as a no surprise to see that Susanne Bier has already taken that big leap into the inevitable American production with the recent Things We Lost in The Fire, starring Halle Berry, Benicio del Toro and David Duchovny. Let’s just hope she doesn’t lose that magic of what is unsaid and, therefore, have no reason to do any remission of sins.