Another impressive outing for Von Trier, and again one surrounded by controversy. The plot about a group of people acting like they are mentally retarded for various reasons is enough to stir up anger, but it more importantly stirs up thoughts, and we get a real sense of society’s lack of understanding, fear, and judgement of the mentally retarded. The films most thought provoking parts are when we see the public’s reactions to their behaviour, some smile and try not to show any nervousness, others simply avoid them, and it is a very effective look at our ideals. However, even this is turned on its head as the group are infiltrated by a genuine group of mentally retarded people, and some of them cannot cope. As we see the group falling apart, we learn their different reasons for pursuing such an idea, some for fun, some to expose ‘middle-class fascism’, others because it makes them ecstatically happy. The group leader of sorts, Stoffer takes it all seriously, often going too far in the eyes of the others, but explains that everyone has an inner idiot that we should all learn to embrace. The film follows the group’s exploits, taking in a new member Karen who seems sympathetic, at first not understanding why they do it, but intrigued by it. She too eventually joins in. However, several outside intrusions from the real world and from family members mean that the group begins to fall apart. Stoffer claims that the only way to prove if you are worthy of the group and dedicated to your inner idiot is to stop ‘spazzing’, as they call it, in front of strangers, but in front of their closest friends and family. Karen agrees to try this, and her past is revealed.
The film, according to the Dogma rules, was filmed by hand-held, and is all the more powerful for it. Each performance is powerful and very convincing, and we are left questions our own attitudes. The most shocking scenes were believed to be the gang-bang scenes featuring full frontal nudity. Although short, and an important part of the plot, they were cut to an extent, with black boxes covering certain areas. The film has since been shown uncut, and has gained critical success. However, it will never reach a mainstream audience, and therefore very few people will be affected by it. As Von trier’s reputation grows though, more people will return to this, which can only be good.
This DVD features a trailer, filmographies, stills, and information on the Dogma manifesto from 1995. Nothing special considering the controversy surrounding the films, but still worth buying if you’re a fan of European cinema.
Feel free to comment on my review and/or the film itself- do you feel this is Von Trier’s signature work? Did you love it or hate it or something in between?