Friday, 27 November 2009

How P.C.

The Idiots (Idioterne) is quite possibly un-P.C. I'm not entirely sure on the political correctness of referring to those with mental difficulties as 'idiots', or of imitating them and referring to it as 'spazzing.' But Lars von Trier has never really been known for holding back on offending people.

The Idiots is the second installment of von Trier's Golden Heart Trilogy, the preceding being Breaking The Waves and the subsequent being Dancer In The Dark. This trilogy is referred to as such due to their dealing with a central female character who remains naive throughout the story. It is also his entry into the Dogme 95 doctrine, following a set of rules for a movement co-founded by him. Films certified had to follow the Vow Of Chastity, ten rules I won't go into now, but which can be found here. Other notable Dogme 95 films are Thomas Vinterburg's Festen, Harmony Korine's Julien Donkey-Boy and Lone Scherfig's Italian For Beginners.

Von Trier's entry (Dogme 2 - where is that hash key???) centres around a group of people who live together in a borrowed house and regularly go out in public as these 'idiots', 'spazzing' their way around as a way of connecting with, ultimately, simplicity. A big deal is made of when someone finds their 'inner idiot', when they naturally and spontaneously discover within themselves this aspect of their personality.

The film is quite shocking in some ways, but quite peaceful and sweet in others. The members of the group do seem to, generally, care for each other a lot. They are just trying, in their own way, to be happy and to discover themselves, and quite often seem to be entirely content. The performances are solid and the confrontational is limited and muted for von Trier once you get past the fact that they are imitating (some might see it as mocking) those with sometimes severe mental difficulties. Even the gang-bang scene (more real sex, as dictated by the rules) seems quite sweet and an extension of the group's goals and aims.

The Vow Of Chastity means that the film can never look particularly good. Everything has to be natural and diegetic (though there is some non-diegetic music in the film, something for which I'm sure von Trier had to write a confession) so the films are not, generally, that beautiful to behold. But it is an effective trick to ground the film in reality, which otherwise this film may have failed with.

Ultimately, it's not the best Lars von Trier film out there. I'm generally an enormous fan of him for daring to tread where many filmmakers would not (all of this other films I have seen have been incredibly confronting, with the only real low note being Manderlay) but this film does not quite live up to the rest of his catalogue. Still, it has its moments. 3 stars.

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