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The Celebration (1998) - Plot Summary Poster

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Summaries

  • At Helge's 60th birthday party, some unpleasant family truths are revealed.

  • The Father turns 60. His family, which is a big one of the kind, gathers to celebrate him on a castle. Everybody likes and respects the father deeply...or do they? The youngest son is trying to live up to the father's expectations. He is running a grill-bar in a dirty part of Copenhagen. The oldest son runs a restaurant in France, while the sister is a anthropologist. The older sister has recently committed suicide and the father asks the oldest son to say a few words about her, because he is afraid he will break into tears if he does it himself. The oldest son agrees without argument. Actually he has already written two speeches. A yellow and a green one. By the table, he asks the father to pick a speech. The father chooses green. The oldest son announces that this is the Speech of Truth. Everybody laughs, except for the father who gets a nervous look on his face. For he knows that the oldest son is about to reveal the secret of why the oldest sister killed herself.

  • It is Helge's 60th birthday and a lavish celebration is being held, with a host of guests. His three children - Christian, Helene and Michael - come from afar for the occasion but it is soon obvious that the family is hardly a harmonious, happy one. Hanging over the occasion is the recent suicide of Christian's twin sister, Linda. Then, during the toasts at the dinner, Christian drops a bombshell.

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  • A darkly comic journey into forbidden family territory. No one can ignore a person like Danish patriarch Helge Klingenfeldt. So on his sixtieth birthday, a celebration is required. Friends and relatives scurry to the country estate. Eventually, every family's secrets will come out. And since his twin sister's death two months ago, prodigal son Christian is more haunted than usual. The time has come for the darkest family skeleton to be revealed, and it must be done in their father's style - with flair, and malice.

  • The patriarch and grandfather Helge is celebrating his 60th birthday. His children, two sons and a daughter arrive to celebrate with him. A second daughter has recently committed suicide and the son Christian holds a speech that clears the cobwebs from all the lies the family members have told each other for many years. The celebration becomes a weekend that none will ever forget.


Spoilers

The synopsis below may give away important plot points.

Synopsis

  • Respected family patriarch and businessman Helge (Henning Moritzen) is celebrating his 60th birthday at the family-run hotel. Gathered together amongst many family and friends are his wife Else (Birthe Neumann), Christian (Ulrich Thomsen), his sullen eldest son, his well-traveled daughter Helene (Paprika Steen), and Michael (Thomas Bo Larsen), his boorish younger son. Christian's twin sister, Linda, recently committed suicide at the hotel.

    Before the celebration dinner, Helene finds Linda's suicide note, but hides it in a medicine bottle after becoming upset by the contents (which are not revealed to the audience). Michael fights with his wife, whom he had earlier abandoned on the roadside with their three children, and then has sex with her. Michael later is pulled aside by a waitress with whom he had an affair (and had made pregnant) and then beats her when she disparages Helge. Later, during dinner, Christian makes a speech to the family in which he accuses his father Helge of sexually abusing him and his late sister Linda. Helge's family and friends initially dismiss the accusations as absurd, a joke, or a figment of Christian's imagination. In a private conversation in the pantry, a seemingly baffled Helge asks Christian about his motivations for slandering him, and Christian appears to recant from his accusation. However, Christian is spurred to further action by hotel chef Kim (Bjarne Henriksen), a childhood friend who knows about the abuse. Christian then stands up and continues his toast by accusing Helge of causing Linda's death. Helge speaks to Christian alone and threateningly offers to announce in a toast Christian's troubled personal history, impotence with women and his perhaps inappropriately close relationship with his late sister, Linda. Christian says nothing in response to the threat. Further exacerbating the tensions of the day, Helene's black boyfriend Gbatokai (Gbatokai Dakinah) shows up, enraging the racist Michael who later leads most of the partygoers in singing the Danish song "Jeg har set en rigtig negermand" in a racist way to offend him. During a toast, Else makes a series of back-handed compliments towards her children, accusing Christian of having an overactive imagination as a child and asking him to apologize for his earlier accusation. Christian responds by accusing her of interrupting Helge during one of the rapes, yet not interfering with the incident, and calling her a "cunt". Michael and two other guests violently eject Christian from the hotel. When Christian walks back in, they beat Christian and tie him to a tree in the nearby woods.

    Christian unties himself and returns to the house. Helene has a headache and asks one of the waitresses (Pia) to go and fetch her pills. Pia finds Linda's suicide note in the medicine bottle and gives it to Christian. Christian gives the suicide note to Helene and leaves a note with the toastmaster. The toastmaster reads aloud the note that urges Helene to read the suicide note to the guests. Helene does so. Linda's note states that she decided to kill herself after feeling overwhelmed by dreams in which her father was molesting her again. In a fit of anger, Helge admits to the abuse in front of all the guests by saying that it was all Christian was good for. He then leaves the dining room with the guests stunned. Christian, who is drunk, faints after walking out of the dining hall and imagines seeing Linda. When he awakes, he learns from Helene that Michael is missing. We learn that the drunken Michael has called Helge outside and then beat his father severely, promising him that he will never see his grandchildren again.

    Next morning shows the family (excluding the parents) and guests eating breakfast nonchalantly. Then Helge comes in and speaks to the group admitting his wrongdoing and declaring his love for his children. Michael coolly dismisses their father from the table, stating that he should now leave so that they can have breakfast. Christian reveals that he is going back to Paris, and asks Pia (who has known Christian for years) to accompany him.

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