This 2002 feature is a masterpiece of our genre. On one level, the story examines how a young man called Allan told on Danish radio how he confronted his father at his 60th birthday celebration with the devastating fact that the father had abused him and his twin sister as children. But Allan’s story is also the subject of the successful Danish film The Celebration by Thomas Vinterberg, part of the Dogma Film Group founded by Lars von Trier. The feature’s title, Efter Festen, (After the Celebration) is ambiguous in Danish, the Danish word 'efter' being translatable as either 'after' or 'based on'. So knowing that The Celebration is the title of the fictional film, emphasises the referential and literary quality of the material being treated. What is narrative and what is reality?
Lisbeth Jessen spent almost two years looking for the 'real Allan'. But the most interesting aspect of this fascinating multi-layered story is how Lisbeth tells the story – the dramaturgy. Even if Lisbeth- the- author sometimes knows more than both Lisbeth-the-journalist and Lisbeth- the-narrator, she nevertheless structures the feature very cleverly so as to let us in on her thoughts on the events. Lisbeth Jessen produces this as a classic three-act drama, an intimate piece of theatre with just four protagonists: Allan, Thomas Vinterberg, Kjeld Koplev (the radio presenter) and herself as the journalist with a quest but also as the reflecting narrator, (talking to the audience). It is this concentration on the essential that makes this feature so strong and impressive. As a narrator she is in search of truth, but as an author she believes in the power of narrative. This story is about family secrets, about a childhood trauma and its psychological effects. She believes every narrative follows its own logic and most of all - it is already an interpretation of reality. It ends as it began, with Allan’s story, which leaves many questions unanswered, and which holds a mirror up to us.
AUDIO (in Danish) here: starts at 2.26.
SCRIPT (English) here:
Recommended CitationRosin, Leslie, Efter Festen (After The Celebration): A Review, RadioDoc Review, 2(1), 2015.