Director: Lars von Trier
Writer: Lars von Trier
Starring: Willem Dafoe, Charlotte Gainsborugh and Storm Acheche Sahlstrøm
This film takes place in five parts. The prologue shows our main characters, Willem Dafoe and his wife, Charlotte Gainsbourg. They are making love in the shower and then take it to their bed. We see that they have a son, played by Storm Acheche Sahlstrøm. They do not hear that he is awake and do not see him as he climbs up to a window sill. He falls out of the window.
We then shift to them leaving the funeral. Gainsbourg collapses as they do. Dafoe visits her in the hospital and we learn that he is a psychologist. He feels that her doctor is an idiot and doesn’t like the idea of her taking the medication she is given. He is not supposed to treat his family. He is arrogant though and thinks he knows what’s best for her.
He pushes her to get rid of her pills, which she flushes down the toilet. He also pushes to help her through her grief. He wants her to deal with it, not to dull her senses with medication. He does learn that she was writing her thesis and was doing it out in a cabin they own in the woods. While doing this, Dafoe learns that she is scared of the woods and calls the place Eden.
He is awoken in the middle of the night as Gainsbourg is banging her head on the toilet bowl. He stops her and it is then decided that they are going to go to the cabin. While on the way, he does an exercise that shows us important landmarks out to the cabin. He does get her to realize some of her fears before they get out there.
It doesn’t work at first. She panics on the bridge, needs to rest before they get to the cabin. While she takes a nap, Dafoe looks around and finds a deer; the problem though is the deer has a stillborn baby still hanging out from inside her. It runs away.
They finally make it there. We learn more and more about this couple while here. Dafoe begins to lose it a little bit. The first thing that happens with him is that acorns fall from the tree above the cabin. It sounds like hail falling and it keeps him awake. The next morning he wakes up with his window open and his hand is covered in something that sticks to his skin. He freaks out trying to pull them off.
He continues to question her to learn more and more about what scares her. It turns out that she is scared of nature, but that is really him that is scared of the nature around him. She is more scared of nature of humans. Gainsbourgh was working on her thesis which was on woman and the punishment of what happened to them by men. Dafoe delves more into it to realize that she is scared of man.
Gainsbourg does regain her senses and seems to be getting better. We do get something that she may have lost her mind the last time she was at the cabin with her son. It seems that being out in the woods, in the cabin drives her crazy. She begins to think that women deserve what they get, which goes against everything she was writing about. She actually has nymphomania and something about this is driving her mad.
She then snaps again. She attacks Dafoe with a log of wood and knocks him out. She then drills a hole in his leg and secures a grinding wheel to it. Can Dafoe get himself free? Can he get Gainsbourg to regain her senses before it is too late? Will either of them make it out alive?
First thing that I need to state that this film is graphic in what it depicts on screen. There is genitalia mutilation and there is violence on top of that. Despite this, this is an art film. Lars von Trier uses some things that I have seen him utilize in other films. He likes to use vivid colors, matte backgrounds that give the scene a surreal feel as well as using slow motion. I think that helps with the music used in this film to help build suspense as well as give this film an even creepier feel. The acting is great and the story is actually not bad either. I did find it a little bit confusing, but it really made me think. There are some great images that mirror things that have happened in this film as well.
I also wanted to point out that this film to me states that women are dangerous. Gainsbourg seems to be the antichrist, but is she driven mad by the men around her or is this just women-nature. That is a question I wonder about.
I will say that I wish I understood the film better. Trier does a great job at making an art film, which also is a solid horror film as well. I do want to know more about the ‘Three Beggars’ and more of what role they are supposed to play in it. A film like this is very interesting, but as I stated, I do have questions left unanswered and I don’t feel the film is equipped to really answer them.
I would recommend this film if this sounds good. If not, I would definitely avoid this. If you like Trier’s films, I would say you have to see this one. I have seen a couple films by him and I could tell immediately he made it. I do have to admit that I am a fan. I feel that he does a great job of mixing the drama, psychology and horror together for this one. This film has great acting with a pretty good story. The acting though is really what this film is about and drives it. The editing and the music are also good to help the overall feel. I will warn again that there is graphic violence that had me cringing.
My Rating: 7 out of 10