What it means to be in a Danish family | AspenTimes.com

What it means to be in a Danish family

Mads Mikkelsen stars as Jacob in the Academy Award-nominated Danish drama After the Wedding, showing Saturday and Sunday at the Wheeler Opera House. (Courtesy Ole Kraghe-Jacobsen)

Of course, you cant control everything, Jrgen says in the Danish film After the Wedding. The observation is certainly true. But its a strange one to be coming from Jrgen. He didnt get where he is a self-made billionaire at the age of 48 by simply letting the chips fall where they may. Coming out of the mouth of Jrgen, those words are particularly empty; he is a bully in his business dealings, in social settings, even in his philanthropic endeavors. When a waiter advises him that a second bottle of schnapps seems a bad idea, Jrgen berates him, then insists on talking to the owner of the restaurant. Jrgen is smart enough to know the truth of his phrase, but it isnt going to stop him from trying to exert as much control as humanly possible. In After the Wedding, which earned an Oscar nomination for best foreign language film, Jrgen is mostly concerned with exercising his will in the realm of his family. At the films beginning, Jrgen has summoned Jacob (Mads Mikkelson) to come see him at his headquarters in Copenhagen. This is no small request; Jacob, though a native of Denmark, is an aid worker in India, with a devout attachment to the impoverished children he houses and cares for. Jacob meets with Jrgen only out of financial necessity; Jrgen has dangled a potential donation. In the plush office, Jrgen is his usual imposing self brushing by the video about the orphanage that Jacob has brought, ignoring Jacob when he turns down the offer of a midday cocktail. When Jrgen invites no, insists that Jacob come to his daughters wedding the following day, it appears that Jrgen has something more than philanthropy in mind. Sure enough, at the wedding, deep and meaningful glances are exchanged between Jacob and Jrgens wife, Helene (Sidse Babett Knudsen). It is clear they are acquainted. More than just acquainted, as it turns out. They had been lovers in India 20 years ago, when Jacob was a woman- chasing drunk, and Helene was the sort of young, naive woman who would fall for an idealistic, handsome lush. The affair was brief, but it was passionate, and produced at least one lasting piece of memorabilia: Anna (Stine Fischer Christensen), raised as Jrgens own daughter. Director Susanne Bier has proved her facility with tangled relationships and family secrets. Brothers, her 2004 film about siblings dealing with shifting family dynamics, won an audience award at the Sundance Festival. Here, Bier and co- writer Anders Thomas Jensen find a wealth of angles to probe. There is the anger of both Jacob and Anna toward Helene, who took it upon herself to keep quiet about Annas true father. And there is the character of Jrgen: Why, exactly, has he manipulated things so that his wife would be reunited with her former lover? The answer, slowly revealed, says much about what exactly it means to be a family, and the sometimes conflicting obligations that are pressed upon family members.”After the Wedding” shows Saturday and Sunday at Aspen’s Wheeler Opera House. Show times are 4:30 and 8 p.m. both days. Admission is $8. Stewart Oksenhorns e-mail is stewart@aspentimes.com

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