Review: The Idiots – Idioterne (1998)

Directed by: Lars von Trier | 117 minutes | drama, comedy | Actors: Jens Albinus, Bodil Jørgensen, Anne Louise Hassing, Troels Lyby, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Louise Mieritz, Henrik Prip, Luis Mesonero, Knud Romer Jørgensen, Trine Michelsen, Anne-Grethe Bjarup Riss

“The Idiots” is a movie you hate or love. The many criticisms this film has received are mainly based on the pornographic scene and the rest of the nude in the film. Many people also found the fact that a group of people pretended to be mentally handicapped offensive and insulting. The film was shot according to the rules of Dogma 95: no make up, no artificial light and no built sets. Hence, it feels more like a documentary or even a real-life soap, than a movie. You really start to doubt whether it is not secretly happened.

The characters are lifelike and all have their own idiosyncrasies. They are all looking for their inner idiot. They talk weird, play with food in restaurants, let themselves be shown around a factory, and then make fun of the foreman and behave as abnormally as possible. All of this is to elicit a response from fellow human beings, be it pity, disgust or anger. Leader of the group is the arrogant Stoffer and he is actually the least sympathetic of the bunch. He wants to get his way and seems to pass over, when the project escalates he demands without compassion that his group return to daily life and behave like an idiot there too. This turns out to be more difficult than expected.

We actually see the film through the eyes of Karen (Bodil Jørgensen), a woman who is still outside the group at the beginning of the film. She is quickly included in the commune, but her background remains unclear until the end of the film. At first she expresses the feelings of (most) viewers, her disgust and disbelief about the project, but later she turns out to be one of the most established idiots the group knows. That scene is pretty shocking and unfathomable.

The film is not so much about the mentally handicapped, as it is about the reaction of the people around them to them. The social status of the mentally handicapped is denounced several times and we see how uncomfortable people feel in the company of the mentally handicapped. Von Trier has understood very well that this is confronting, and he is not doing anything to cover it up.

It is difficult to rate the film, because it depends on how you view it as a viewer. The film starts out promising, then collapses and is fascinating again at the end. Because of the great originality of the story an above average film, therefore three and a half stars.

Comments are closed.