Wednesday, 29 July 2009


Director Lars Von Trier has always had a knack for breaking cinematic conventions and this sordid little affair shows no signs of him changing.

But what the Danish director managed to sustain in movies such as the brilliant Dogville and Manderlay, he seems to revoke for a more vulgar and pretentious piece of cinema.

The story centres around a nameless couple played by Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg. As they frivolously copulate in their bedroom, the pair fail to stop their baby son jumping accidentally to his death from an open window.

Gainsbourg doesn’t take the news well while Dafoe, a therapist by trade, almost becomes obsessed by his wife’s grief and peculiar nature.

It isn’t long before he sees his own wife like a patient, a subject worth analysing, and believes an extended trip to a remote cabin in the woods will break the cycle of pain.

Told in four chapters with a prologue and epilogue, the film details their trip into self-destruction and mutilation while confronting the strange goings-on that seem to be occurring in their natural surroundings.

This could have been an excellent film - and near the end it almost gives one hope - but there is far too much ambiguity that it’s hard to tell what Lars Von Trier is trying to communicate.

It isn’t quite horror. It isn’t quite drama. In fact, at times, it verges on pornography with a sadistic edge.

Too much time is spent visually trying to impress, such as, slow-motion shots of falling objects and microscopic close-ups of dismembered animals like an X-rated version of Planet Earth.

The violence is also both graphic and unnecessary - and although these scenes are left for the last fifteen minutes, it is bound to leave any cinema-goer slightly unhinged as they stumble away from the screen.

This really is unsettling viewing - vaguely reminiscent of Colin Eggleston's 1978 hit Long Weekend and Claire Denis's ultra violent Trouble Every Day.

Confusing, tasteless and rather boring, this is pretentious cinema-making at its most sickening.

And while it certainly deserves a one star rating, its complexities and ambiguity can’t help but persuade you there is more at work than meets the eye.

But what that might be, who knows?

Rating: * *

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