Director: Lars von Trier
Starring: Willem Dafoe, Charlotte Gainsbourg . Denmark, Germany, Italy, France, Italy, Poland, Sweden. 1h 48m
This made a very interesting date night, a reconciliation with an ex and a movie filled with sexual violence and gnostic connotations, but in all honesty we both read that there were crazy genital mutilation scenes and being the sick twisted couple we were, we actually wanted to see this together, on top of this any film with Charlotte is usually a bit nutty and even with all this knowledge we were still a bit mystified and shocked at this dark and distinctively effective movie.
There was a lot going on in Lars von Trier world at the time of writing this early chapter of his unofficial Depression Trilogy, having suffered a gigantic episode himself while writing a lot of the darkest parts and the recovery process leak into this sombre movie which has had a profound effect on a number of artist who have watched the movie sparking a cult of work dedicated to the ethos is recovery that the film preaches.
Opening with a graphic, black and white slow motion scene of a couple having sex in a shower while their toddler, Nic jumps from their apartment window and falls to his death, set against a haunting classical track. This difficult scene turns out to be one of the easiest of the movie as things only get darker and more sadistic from here on, so buckle up.
At the funeral the mother collapses, dealing with the grief of watching the incident, on purpose or just unable to deal with what she was witnessing, her husband, an experienced therapist decides he’s going to cure her, while talking she reveals that her second biggest fear is nature and so he attempts exposure therapy and they hike to an isolated cabin in the woods called Eden.
Together each of them begin to find answers to un-asked questions each pertaining to their gender. During the last summer at the cabin She (the couple are only known as He and She), busied herself writing a thesis on Gynocide which, somewhere in the dark forest seems to have taken on a life of itself. Meanwhile He seems to experience the darker side of nature, on his hikes he stumbles on the Three Beggars, A doe with a still born fawn hanging halfway out of her, a self disemboweled box and a crow, each of these strange creatures speaks a warning to him as the battle between He and She continues as the ultimate battle of the sexes. Through increasingly violent sex, bodies writhing in the roots of trees, the talking animals and scrapbooks recounting witchcraft and Satan there’s definaly enough material here to paint a morbid picture or two with heavy connotations of the garden of Eden and Witch trials.
– the Fox
There’s a really burdensome feeling about ths unplesant movie, the graphic sex scenes are similar in nature to Catherine Brilliant there’s nothing sensual or caring between this couple anymore, however their descent into sexual violence is like a mockingly sad poem. They spend a lot of their time talking, fucking and discovering different levels of evil within their little Eden. He seems to pick up on all the darker and creepier aspect while she transforms into an erreactic agent of evil, but is she merely reacting to the way her gender has been treated since being cast from Eden and that of the Witch Trials or is she protecting herself and her gender from future oppression?
Lars is an incredibly distinctive director who relies heavily on the effects of his vibrant visually charming and disturbing creations, once they shock, mock and upset the audience there’s a strange uplifting tone to the movie by the final scenes.
There’s a lot to take in, on the surface it’s just a couple trying to work through their problems, She’s on a path of irrational decisions, he’s a scholar who’s applying a history of theories to understand and help her. But with all the massive hints, the forest called Eden a couple who turn up and seems to be finalising the ultimate battle of the genders, and all of this os cover cast through a series of darkly violent sex scenes including a bloody ejaculation and female genetal mulitation, it’s as if Lars von Trier is hitting each of the gender arguments on the head one by one.
“When the three beggars arrive someone must die.”
With tons of symbolism within the movie which Lars von Trier doesn’t go to the extra effort to explain, some of it’s incredibly personal to him and seems purposely left open to let the viewer make of it what they will. Roger Ebert has a saying: “If you have to ask what something symbolizes, it doesn’t.” but with the Three Beggars as an example many ideas have been thrown into the mix, in Russian Folklore it’s the wiscome and suffering of Christ, in psychology i’s the id ego and superego which is how He was reading the situation, however Lars von Trier relates it to a Brazillian trans technique but somehow all connections work together.
For me it’s a perfect blend of symbolism and dark artistic expression, a visual explanation of the rise up from depression and the ultimate battle of the sexes which is the perfect combination of a director and two phenomenal actors and a sound engineer who went above and beyond when he swallowed a microphone to get the right backing track for one of the rougher scenes.
Related: Melancholia (2011), Nymphomaniac I and II (2013), Another Earth (2011), The wall (1982), The Sevenths Victim (1943), Anatomy of Hell (2004).
Lists: Depression Flicks Vol 1
Spotlight: Willem Dafoe, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Lars von Trier.