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Premieres & Events

Bier's Wedding Party

Dynamic duo: (L-R) Sidse Babett Knudsen and Mads Mikkelsen in After the Wedding (Photo: IFC Films)

By S.T. VanAirsdale

Filmmaker Susanne Bier dropped by IFC Center Wednesday for the theatrical premiere of After the Wedding, Denmark's recent Foreign Language Oscar nominee and one of the season's more corrosive melodramas in any language. The story of a Danish aid worker (Mads Mikkelsen) who travels home on a fund-raising mission only to get sucked into the most contrived, histrionic family meltdown since, like, ever, Wedding features a series of epic blow-ups, break-ups and tear-streaked catastrophes so forcefully abusive it makes Babel look like Bresson. The masochists in the audience quite dug it; one confessed "choking on [her] spit" in the post-screening Q&A, while another implored Bier's insight on rehearsing and shooting such harrowing work.

"Basically, I always rehearse in the morning with the actors," she replied. "And we always start out with the script and we usually change it quite a lot. And I usually have one-and-a-half, maybe two hours only with the actors. The DP is going to be there to see what we are doing, but only very few crew members are part of that whole thing. It's like a playground. [!] And because nobody else is there, we feel fairly... " Bier paused briefly. "It's kind of liberating because you don't feel that there's a whole lot of people watching and it's going to go fast. So we can play around. After those rehearsals, we'll show the crew so everyone can see what we have planned, and then everybody goes into makeup, and then we start shooting. Then I'll probably change it again. That's when everybody gets really frustrated."

"Just a couple of takes?" the man asked.

"No!" Bier said. "I do lots and lots of takes--"

"Lots of long takes," said Wedding's leading lady Sidse Babett Knudsen, gravely if matter-of-factly.

"Right," Bier continued. "I always do the whole scene with each take. I never cut it off. But there might be extreme variations. Each scene has many takes on it, and it is kind of an organic thing which is very stimulating. And very exhausting. ... I believe in nobody feeling really secure and safe."

"I think that scene where Jorgen runs amok at the end lasted 20 minutes, didn't it?" Knudsen asked, referring to her co-star Rolf LassgÄrd's climactic collapse.

Bier nodded once. "Yes."

"And we did it four times?"

Another nod. "Yes."

It sounds sadistic because it is, but don't take my word for it; have a look at Vadim Rizov's Reeler review for the bottom line on Bier's film, and judge for yourself as After the Wedding opens today at IFC Center.

Posted at March 30, 2007 1:48 PM

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