Monday, November 1, 2010

The Idiots

Lars von Trier’s The Idiots is his second film in The Golden Heart trilogy. The first film (Breaking the Waves) and the last film (Dancer in the Dark) in the trilogy were fairly successful in terms of von Trier’s career. In fact, both of those films received Oscar attention. The middle film, The Idiots, is the lesser known of von Trier’s trilogy. This may be due in part to it being unavailable on DVD in the States. Or, that the film is heavily edited (either entire scenes removed or images blurred out). But, probably, due to the film’s disturbing content.

The film follows a small commune of people living in the abandoned home of the “leader’s” rich uncle. The group wishes to stand up against the norms of society. They see no reason to behave within the boundaries expected of those in society. The purpose is to find a more child-like, animal behavior. For von Trier, and the rest of the cast, this means behaving mentally handicapped. The first half of the film follows the group as they go out in public settings (restaurants, a public pool, a bar, etc) and pretend to be handicapped. This sounds awful. This sounds hateful. And this is why the film is probably less popular than von Trier’s other outings.

Can I excuse the characters’ behavior? In a sense, yes. Because deep down each of these characters is struggling with some form of emotional handicap. There is something deeply wrong with these characters. Not because they want to behave this way. But, because they are able to behave this way. They create a false reality. All those problems we bury deep inside can be played with, exposed, thrown about in public under the guise of being handicapped. This group is challenging society and their views of those “less than” the norm, too. There is, almost, something purposeful in the experiment.

After two-thirds of the film, I started to wonder how this film fit into The Golden Heart trilogy. I understood the character of Karen being the struggling heroine following behind Bess (Breaking the Waves) and leading us towards Selma (Dancer in the Dark). But, I couldn’t understand what her story was… only little background hints were placed in front of us. By the films end, Karen’s story is exposed. Her past is equally traumatic and pained as Bess’ and Selma’s. Once again, von Trier has found a dark corner within his female lead and used her pain as a journey.

The Idiots is the weakest film in the trilogy. In that so much of the film seems to stand too far away from Karen. But, this is not a bad film. This is a painful film. This is an honest film. This is a film one will struggle through (as with the other two films in the trilogy). The end result is pure, raw emotion. Worth the entire two hours.


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