Well, if I have any one thing to say about The Celebration (1998) is that it made me more uncomfortable than perhaps any other film. Of course, the subject matter is highly uncomfortable, and that was certainly a major part of my reaction, but the Vow of Chastity made it far moreso. Going through the ten rules, it seems that the film follows all of them
Shooting must be done on location: I can’t say for sure on this one. It was a mansion in the woods. No location more broadly is really given, but the mansion certainly seemed to be real. As far as Deren’s controlled accident is concerned, this gave the film a firm grounding in reality and lent truth to the actions.
Sound must not be produced apart from images: Again, I can’t be sure since they could have had excellent editors make it seem like everything was natural, but everything sounded natural. Birds chirping, people talking, realistic sounds of cars on the road and fists hitting flesh. Knowing that this film was done with this rule in mind, every punch and slap and crash was definitely just as painful as it sounded.
The camera must be handheld: While not all of the shots were done with cameras in hands, as some were clearly from mounted cameras, any moving shots had a shaky-cam quality. The whole thing felt voyeuristic because of that. Like Helene’s boyfriend, we are not part of this family. We don’t even speak the language. We just came in at this seemingly random point in this family’s life and saw it fall apart under heavy circumstances. The handheld camera made me feel like I shouldn’t be there for this private family event.
Film must be in colour – special lighting is not permitted: The film was in color, and the fact that everything seemed to be half in shadows indicated to me that there was no special lighting added in. Again, this added to the feeling that I was watching something real happening, not a film, which made the action that much more uncomfortable.
Optical work and filters are forbidden: It could be that any editing was done brilliantly, but the only editing I noticed at all aside from transitions were a few cuts within scenes.
The film must not contain any superficial action: No one died, all of the violence felt naturally evoked given the characterization of the participants, and every hit looked and sounded completely real. As mentioned with the sound, this made me that much more uncomfortable, as now not only are these seemingly real characters being hurt, I know the actors are actually being struck, as well.
Temporal and geographical alienation are forbidden: There were no temporal references, really, aside from perhaps the datedness of Christian’s cell phone and the style of cars. If it weren’t for the cell phone, I don’t think I would have been able to tell when exactly the film takes place. With the phones, I can believe that it was the late 1990’s, and certainly no later than the early 2000’s. This also kept the film close because these kinds of things absolutely happen. Michael’s racism and sexism exist. People sexually abuse their children. It is absolutely a modern and relevant issue, if not incredibly prominent.
Genre movies are not acceptable: Frankly, I have trouble identifying a genre for this movie aside from “drama.” There weren’t many indicators of well-known patterns for me to follow, so every event was a surprise.
The film format must be Academy 35mm: The film wasn’t made digitally, that much I can tell from the quality and cigarette burns at the cuts. I can’t say what exact film it was made on, but I have no trouble accepting that this was it.
The director must not be credited: I didn’t see all of the credits, and didn’t think to take note of what I did. I know Vinterberg made the film, but I don’t know if he was credited in the film itself.
In sum, this film took an outrageously uncomfortable and completely plausible concept and pushed it on us in a style that made it feel like we were watching real people go through this and that we shouldn’t be watching them. It was immersive and real, much moreso than many of the other “realistic” films I know.