The Idiots ★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

This is a very intriguing film. At first glance, you read the synopsis regarding a group of people pretending to be mentally handicapped, and then look at who the director is and think "Von Trier at it again." But that would be selling the film short. And also Von Trier himself. While he's definitely controversial, half the time I think he's just fucking with everyone for laughs. Kind of like what the central group is doing here. Sure, they can constantly state that they're attempting to find their "inner idiot" in a bid to be free of society's typical rules, but as we see later in the film, none of them actually have the guts to perform as their retarded selves among people they actually know. It's easy for them to act like that in a group, only on display to strangers, but as soon as Stoffer insists on them taking their 'revolution' into their real lives, they can't do it. The ironic thing is the group initially begins to show cracks after they meet a group of people who are genuinely mentally handicapped, and they find it hugely awkward to be around them. Not only did this make their charade become too real, now they weren't just acting like fools they were acting like real people with actual problems, but it also highlighted the general uncomfortable feeling society has in regards to the mentally handicapped. An earlier scene where a couple is intent on purchasing the house the group is squatting in is derailed after the group puts on their act and claims there's an institution for mentally disabled next door. What was looking like an easy sell becomes void when the couple, especially the woman try to hide their disgust but end up practically fleeing the place.

While the film is mostly filled with odious characters with no redeeming qualities, the one bright spark is Karen, a woman who seems to join the group almost by accident. She's initially disgusted by their actions, but slowly begins to believe in their 'cause' and embraces the idea. In the last scene, she goes home with another member, Suzanne, and it's revealed that right before she joined the group, her young son died. She disappeared and skipped the funeral. Back within the apartment with the family she deserted, she proceeds to embrace her inner idiot, to the complete disgust of everyone, even Suzanne who silently cries. Despite being the outcast of the group for the most part, Karen is the only one that actually goes through with her act outside of the safe confines of the group. While the rest of them seemed to be just blowing smoke regarding the actual meaning of the exercise, Karen embraced it. After the death of her son, she needed something therapeutic and this turned out to be exactly what she needed, especially when we see that the rest of her family are completely unemotional. This was likely the same reaction they had to the death of her son, which might be why she felt she had to leave. She wanted to be around people who weren't afraid to hide their emotions, however depraved they were.

The Idiots is a film I'll likely revisit, as I wasn't thinking much about the overarching meaning while watching the film since I found it strangely entertaining. I only stopped to ponder Von Trier's reasons behind the film afterwards, so to watch it back with these thoughts mind make it even more rewarding. Not a film that most are going to find easily digestible, but it'll definitely have you thinking afterwards. Those thoughts might be "what a stupid film", but still.