The Idiots

Can a film be too provocative? Not provocative in the sense of explicit sex or graphic nudity, though Lars von Trier's (BREAKING THE WAVES) new film has plenty of both. Provocative in the sense that it provokes its audience from so many directions that its provocations cancel themselves out; throwing up one's hands seems the only option. It's overtly about...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Can a film be too provocative? Not provocative in the sense of explicit sex or graphic nudity, though Lars von Trier's (BREAKING THE WAVES) new film has plenty of both. Provocative in the sense that it provokes its audience from so many directions that its provocations cancel themselves out; throwing up one's hands seems the only option. It's overtly about provocation, set in a tony Danish suburb where a group of men and women living commune-style in an empty house are discovering their "inner idiots" by pretending to be developmentally challenged. They improvise drooling, disruptive scenes in public to test the limits of upper-middle-class hypocrisy. They call what they do "spassing"; it combines anti-bourgeois social action, art happening and regressive group therapy, but the underlying agenda is never quite clear. The film's

moral center is sad, smiling Karen (Bodil Jorgensen), who wanders into this circle of merry pranksters after witnessing a spass-attack in an upscale restaurant. Who Karen is remains a mystery until the end, but throughout, she questions the group's leader, Stoffer (Jens Albinus), and seems to speak for the more tenderhearted viewer: How do you justify mocking the suffering of less fortunate people? She may also be speaking for von Trier, but it's hard to tell; it's also hard to tell where this contribution to filmmaking according to the manifesto of the ascetic, fiercely anti-individualist Dogme 95 collective (no artificial lighting, sound or props; hand-held camera directorial presence effaced) stands in relation to the rest of his work. If, like Stoffer, von Trier really refuses to romanticize the intellectually challenged as holy fools, he would have to disavow his own BREAKING THE WAVES. And if he's sincere in his critique of communal groupthink and its power to erode an individual's good sense, where does that leave Dogme 95? (In Danish, with English subtitles.)

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  • Released: 1998
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Can a film be too provocative? Not provocative in the sense of explicit sex or graphic nudity, though Lars von Trier's (BREAKING THE WAVES) new film has plenty of both. Provocative in the sense that it provokes its audience from so many directions that its… (more)

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