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The Wedding Party

STUDIO: TLA Releasing
MSRP: $19.99
RUNNING TIME: 92 Minutes

The Pitch

"It's Titus Andronicus meets Gosford Park in Deutschland!"

The Humans

German versions of Tim Robbins and Tim Curry! Uwe Ochsenknecht and Armin Rohde, plus Josef Heynert, Lisa Potthoff, Sandra Borgmann, Imogen Kogge.

The Nutshell

Hermann Walzer (Rohde) wants to purchase an isolated mountain chateau owned by Franz Berger (Ochsenknecht.) Hermann, a big businessman, is used to getting what he wants, but Berger refuses, hoping to maintain the property and its bed and breakfast services on his own. One afternoon, Hermann brings his son's wedding party to the chateau for a dinner and a last attempt at cajoling Berger to sell. Berger once again refuses. Hermann's temper flares, and, in a series of action that take place before their owners have time to think, Berger kidnaps Hermann's wife and their son's young bride, locking the rest of the wedding party outside the chateau's stone walls.

Before long, the entire Walzer clan is laying siege to the chateau. As the standoff stretches into the night, it becomes apparent that no one can put the day aside until a little blood has been spilled, a little perceived debt washed clean.

Translation: "Bug off! We're playing Conker's!"

The Lowdown

The Wedding Party is billed as a comedy, but don't expect to laugh. I'm still puzzling over exactly how the plot functions as a comedy, since its timing has more in common with a tragedy — except for at the ultimate resolution — and its satire is wholly optional. More unavoidable is the story of ill-advised behavior, crudely chosen and stubbornly maintained.

All those behaviors are dictated, in this case, by the men of the house. Berger leads his small troupe of guests (wedding party excepted) and employees into the standoff without consulting any of them. Likewise, Hermann Walzer wrangles his clan into facing down the fortified chateau, whether by force or by appealing to their likeminded impulses. As Shakespeare often exemplified, families (biologic or contextual) are forces larger than their components. The father figure works as nominal leader, but he has only about as much control over events as does a Kindergarten teacher over her students. When families clash, their members clash in strange, chaotic ways, often moving in the general direction the father intended, but almost never in the predicted fashion.

"I am the very model of a modern Major General..."

In that it features myriad stories of inter-family conflict, The Wedding Party recalls a lot of the deftness of Altman's Gosford Park. These are comedies of exaggerated behavior, comedies at their origins; but the momentum given by initial, comedic situation extends into much more tragic character interactions. Imagine a sit-com scenario, and then imagine that, say, Steve Urkel had a personal vendetta against Carl for the latter's authoritarian demeanor, and followed that vendetta believably, instead of falling on his prat. That's kind of how The Wedding Party plays out.

There's a current of class warfare that flows beneath the whole story, springing from Walzer's superiority complex over poor, struggling Berger. Rather than dipping into it for a moral, though, it is employed to enforce the character disparities between those two men. It provides the impetus to action. Since its presence is blatant, an umbrella moral could be teased out of it, but there's a far better one in place — one which requires less stretching to attain. Instead of dividing humans into class structures, The Wedding Party embraces a wider, humanist approach in the portrayal of its characters.

"I like apple pie, warden."

There is a startling amount of violence in the film, and none of it is of the "Hell, yeah!" variety. However, there is only one death. Without spoiling the tense conclusion, I can say that how the families on either side of the gate deal with the fallout of these violent acts carries more moral weight than anything preceding it. Humans must matter to each other if a society on any scale is to survive. Compassion is optional (though it comes like a balm in the less-tragic sequences here) but involvement can not be.

I'm really pleased with how The Wedding Party paced and concluded its plot. I'm always on the lookout for modern tragedies, and though this one doesn't reach the body count of its English class progenitors, its diligence and dignity make it well worth experiencing.

The Package

Nothing. Nichts.

7.5 out of 10