In the film The Celebration, many controversial ideas and measures are used as opposed to Hollywood filmmaking. In many ways, this foreign film approaches film in an uncommon manner. The ‘vow of chastity’ and the light use of cinematography give more realism to this story. In addition, it doesn’t suit the dominant ideology of the Hollywood film industry. Finally, the subject matter in this film would never be approached the same way in America, because the awkward mood and touchy content. First off, The Celebration, a Dogme95 production, uses only a handheld camera, no soundtrack and no artificial lighting in its making.
This gives a sense of purity or ‘chastity’ to make the movie much more realist and therefore dramatic as well. For example, the use of a handheld, shaky camera in close-ups of Christian when he speaks at the dinner table gives a sense of instability and forces the viewer to feel the awkward feeling in the room as if they were in it with everyone else. It makes what he says all that more awkward, where if a tripod was used in those shots in order to give more stability in the speech, the outcome would’ve been much less awkward and dramatic.
Furthermore, the absence of soundtrack in this film is quite obvious and creates different moods and a lot more intensity to the diegetic sounds of the scenes. At the beginning of the film, when Christian walks to get to the party in the fields, there is no music playing or anything, you only hear him talking on the phone, which sets the viewer automatically and quickly in the mood of the film. Usually, a soundtrack would’ve been added in that scene to draw the viewer a little slower into the film and not make him tied to his chair from the very start.
In another part of the film, Michael beats up his dad at the end, there is no music to accompany the action, so that when Michael shouts and cries it is more true and the spectator really feels what he is going through, whereas with music behind it, it would’ve sounded not as true even though still dramatic. Also, when Helena reads her sister’s letter later in the night, there is almost no light but the candles, and her face is filled up with sadness and her reading sounds more authentic that way, which was purposely done.
Artificial light in this scene would increase clarity in the faces and better focus, but would’ve changed the tone completely and that was more important to the director than anything else. Overall, these untraditional film elements bring out a more believable setting and mood to the story, where with more traditional ways of filmmaking, it would not feel as intense. Secondly, this type of film would not be very well received in America, because is too risky for the film industry. The film industry is profit driven and therefore needs films that are certain to make money.
It needs stability and The Celebration doesn’t offer that. It takes too many risks in terms of cinematography and does not fit the dominant ideologies of Hollywood filmmaking. Hollywood has specific filmmaking techniques that are all encountered in a film like The Celebration. The handheld camera is very rare and mostly used in documentaries (their purpose is also to portray realistic settings), there is soundtrack in almost every single film to please the spectator, artificial lighting is often used to give a better quality of the image, props are very important as well.
Also, a foreign film is always more difficult to screen in America, because it won’t attract as many people to go watch it. Thirdly, the subject matter in this film would not be very well received in the US, because of its raw and uncomfortable disturbance. Sexual abuse by the father is, in the first place, never a sweet thing to hear. Though, to approach that kind of content in a realistic, intense way that they did in The Celebration is even harder to watch and disturbing for most spectators.
Hollywood would not approach this topic to a wide audience to make them feel uncomfortable in the end, because they don’t need to send a message, like this film clearly does, they just need to entertain people. They transformed the medium of film to convey something into an activity, a pastime. If they had to make that kind of film in Hollywood, it would not be as dramatic and awkward for the public. It would have a lot more music throughout the film, it would be stable and precised shots and have less dramatic acting.
In conclusion, The Celebration is too unconventional for the American film industry, in terms of the cinematography used with the ‘vow of chastity’, the risk that it gives to release this movie and the subject matter is too propitious to disturb most film viewers. It is such a shame that this industry does not welcome other types of films such as this Danish work, because it is truly an inspiring, compelling movie and it should have more impact than just a ‘feel good’ movie.